Unmanned vehicles and network-centric warfare put the squeeze on rugged military connectors

By John Keller

Environmental demands for military and aerospace electrical and electro-optic connectors are becoming ever more pressing as defense systems enter the network-centric age, and as defense planners rely ever more heavily on unmanned vehicles.

The emerging era of network-centric warfare–in which every soldier, weapon, and vehicle becomes a node on a massive tactical information network–means that everything on the battlefield eventually will require connectors, from the soldier in the foxhole to tactical aircraft and orbiting satellites.

All this means that military systems designers are demanding electrical and electro-optical connectors that are lighter, smaller, tougher, and more affordable than ever before.

“One big trend we see in ground forces is they are all linked via communications,” explains John Binder, industry manager for the military and aerospace business at rugged connector supplier Hypertronics Corp. in Hudson, Mass. “This is just another area where we need connectors that cannot fail–in sand, dust, water, changes in thermal conditions, and the constant vibration of somebody walking, or in a tank that is bounding around for days.”

Hypertronics offers the Hypertac system, which uses pin sockets with wire baskets that hug the contact pin as the pin is inserted in the socket. “It is always in continuous connection with all these wires to the pin,” Binder explains. The wire basket inside the connector is ruggedized in a barrel construction to withstand extremes in shock and vibration.

The Hypertronics Hypertac connector system is used in the U.S. Army Non Line Of Sight (NLOS) cannon system, which must withstand the explosive force of the cannon firing as often as 10 times per minute.

Ruggedizing connectors also is a primary goal of Winchester Electronics Corp. in Wallingford, Conn. “We are developing a product that is anti-rotational after it is torqued, so it stays in place,” says John P. Murphy, strategic customer manager at Winchester Electronics.

Aircraft systems designers are particularly sensitive to connectors that use nuts and screws that can come loose after exposure to long-term shock and vibration–even to the extent of using nuts with holes in them that are used to wire the nut to the aircraft bulkhead.

The problem with nuts and screws that come loose is known as foreign object debris (FOD) damage, which can happen when small bits of debris like nuts and screws gets sucked into jet engines while on the tarmac. This can cause costly damage and take aircraft out of service.

Murphy says the major trends he sees in the rugged connector business are light weight, composite construction, rugged-ization, and nuts and screws that cannot inadvertently come loose.

Unmanned vehicles–in the air, on land, and at sea–also are placing big demands on connector designers. “The number-one law of a connector is it must mate; things fail because they lose their connectivity,” says Hypertronics’s Binder.

Unmanned vehicles are different from manned vehicles in that they often can withstand much more severe levels of shock, vibration, and G forces. “In unmanned vehicles you don’t care about shock and vibration because there’s no person in there to take the impact,” he says. “If it’s unmanned, you can go sub-stantially higher than 10 Gs–providing your vehicle can take it.”

Unfortunately, many connectors available today cannot operate reliably through forces as strong as 10 Gs. “If your connector fails, you will lose signal, or you will lose power, and your system will fail,” Binder says.

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

XPedite7574 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7574 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XCalibur1645 | Freescale Eight-Core P4080 Processor-Based Conduction-Cooled 6U VPX Module

The XCalibur1645 is a high-performance, 6U VPX, single board computer supporting Freescale QorIQ ...

XCalibur5090 | Dual Virtex-7 Based Digital Signal Processing 6U LRM FPGA with Quad 2500 MSPS DAC and 3200 MSPS ADC

The XCalibur5090 is a high-performance, reconfigurable, conduction-cooled 6U LRM module based on ...

S & C Dual-Band Omni Antennas

SWA Dual-Band Omni Antennas are designed to cover the S & C bands, and are available with multipl...

Ultra-Flex Omni Antennas

The Southwest Antennas Ultra-Flex is a line of S-Band & C-Band omni antennas with a unique enviro...

4G LTE Cellular Omni Concealment Antenna

The 4G LTE Cellular Omni Concealment Antenna from Southwest Antennas measures only 4.70" x 1.70" ...

FLATRACK™ Ethernet I/O DAQ Platform

FLATRACK™ Ethernet I/O DAQ Platform accommodates installation of up to four I/O boards, completes...


Four-Slot, Military Style I/O Chassis with Military/Rugged 38999 connectivity, 100% COTS solution...

UEINet™ Ultra Compact Gigabit Ethernet I/O Module

The UEINet™ Series Ethernet I/O module (Cube) is an ultra compact data acquisition, control and I...

PowerDNA-PPC5 Cube

5-layer, 100Base-T I/O, Data Acquisition and Control Cube with PowerPC CPU and SD slot. Has slots...

Related Companies


Is a mechanical engineering consulting company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with operations in Billerica, MA, pro...

Lexycom Technologies Inc

Manufactures lightweight, miniature software defined radios (SDR) for data, video, and voice. Unlike legacy radios, S...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...


Mil Spec EMC/NEMP/ filters and EMC product solutions for military applications.


PALMARII Dynamics is a Swedish company incorporated in 2012 as a competence centre for specialist naval architecture ...


Pelorus Naval Systems is a specialist naval defense engineering and support services company with headquarters in Ran...


ISVI designs, produces and sells machine-vision camera systems combining high-speed and high-resolution sensors with ...

Southwest Antennas

Southwest Antennas designs and manufactures high-performance RF & Microwave antennas and accessories designed for tod...

CORWIL Technology Corp

CORWIL Technology, the premier US based, IC assembly and test services subcontractor, offering full back-end assembly...


IndustryARC primarily focuses on Cutting Edge Technologies and Newer Applications of the Market. Our Custom Research ...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles