Reliability, small size, and fast performance drive rugged military handheld devices

BY John McHale

Designers of rugged handheld devices for military systems, such as tablets, want the features that top every military engineer’s high-performance technology wish lists—lower size, weight, and power (SWaP)—but what they really need is something that can survive and perform consistently in a harsh battlefield environment.

“Military tablet customers have many of the same wants as desktop customers—faster processor, light weight, long battery life, low cost—however, the most important capability that our customers look for is mission-critical reliability,” says Bill Guyan, vice president of programs and strategy at DRS Tactical Systems in Melbourne, Fla. “Initially, computers were introduced to the battlefield and treated as nice-to-have systems. Today, in the networked era, computers are the entry point to the network for soldiers and leaders—and they must be demanded upon to work.

“Reliability for rugged tablets means: Warfighters can read it in the direct sunlight of the desert; can use it in the hottest heat of the desert; can use it in the cold weather of the Arctic; can drop it and it won’t stop working; can mount it to an M-ATV or M1A1 Abrams and use it on the move; and can use it in the rain and in the dust,” Guyan says.

Steve Motter, vice president of business development for IEE Inc. in Van Nuys, Calif., says users of his company’s handheld products also want rugged features. Typically, they are looking for “a small, lightweight, handheld device with a touch-screen display, designed to include sufficient environmental sealing to withstand the extreme environments found in a military application.

The DRS Joint Platform Tablet (JPT) has a 10.4-inch, rugged, sunlight-readable, touch-screen display and 1.66-gigahertz Core 2 Duo processor.

“Our customers are looking for an [Apple] iPad or [Google] Android-based tablet that is capable of being dropped in a puddle, exposed to sand and dust, withstand a high humidity environment, and operate with a gloved hand,” Motter adds.

“The tablet business is growing,” Guyan says. “User familiarity with touch-screen interfaces has increased user acceptance and actually created a user demand for the more flexible tablet form factor. The tablet PC is well-suited for use as a dismountable network device because it is optimized for SWaP. It reduces the space claim required for mounting inside a platform and is also easily stowed or carried by the dismounted soldier. In fact, we began to see an increased demand for tablets from the military market before commercial products like the iPad were launched.”

The biggest challenge for rugged handheld systems has become security, Motter says. “The handheld device’s operating system must provide the facilities to host applications and data that have different levels of classification. We are investigating the use of data/processing partitioning inherent in higher performance single-board computers or MILS (multiple levels of security). This could allow for the use of open-source Android apps and custom classified military applications operating within the same handheld device.”

The DRS Joint Platform Tablet (JPT) is the company’s latest rugged tablet product, Guyan says. It has a 10.4-inch rugged, sunlight-readable, touch-screen display, 1.66-gigahertz Core 2 Duo processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM, a 128-gigabyte solid-state hard drive, two hot-swappable and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and optionally available embedded commercial or SAASM GPS, embedded TACLINK, vehicle mounting installation kit, external keyboard, and secure rugged thumb drive.

“We are expanding our product offering to include multiple form factors for different user profiles,” Guyan says. “For example, some users want a smartphone form factor to stow in their pocket.”

IEE engineers offer the Hand Held Control Display Unit (HH-CDU), a sunlight-readable, military- qualified unit with an optional zeroize switch under an accident-proof cover, Motter says.

The device meets MIL-STD-810 shock, vibration, altitude, blowing rain, sand and dust, salt fog, explosive atmosphere, and immersion specifications, and operates from -40 to 70 degrees Celsius. It also features a night-vision B-compatible backlight keypad with MIL-P-7788 edge-lit type keys and a super twist wide-view liquid crystal display with unfiltered backlight and night-vision B-compatible backlight.

More Military & Aerospace Electronics Current Issue Articles
More Military & Aerospace Electronics Archives Issue Articles

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

Micro-D Connectors

Highly rugged and compact designs in shell styles from 9 to 51 contacts. The Micro-D connectors i...

Hybrid Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available withmixed power/signal contact layouts...

Omnetics Nano-D Bi-Lobe® Latching Connectors

Bi-Lobe® connectors utilize rugged and reliable flex pin contact system. Spaced on 25 mil (.64mm)...

Nano-D Bi-Lobes® Connectors Dual Row Horizontal SMT (Type AA)

Horizontal SMT Bi-Lobe® nanos offer an extremely low profile package that is well suited to pick ...

Nano-D BiLobe® Connectors -(COTS)

Sizes are 9, 15, 21, 25, 31, 37 , 51 & 65 pin, at .025 Mil. Pitch(Currently Available), mating pi...

Latching Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available with Quick Latch System. For applicati...

XPedite7575 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7575 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XTend7103 | COM Express® Carrier for COM Express® Type 10 Mezzanine Modules

The XTend7103 is a COM Express® carrier card designed to provide a low-cost and compact platform ...

XPort6173 | 3U VPX Carrier for Two 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The XPort6173 supports two, standard, 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) in a single 0.8 in. or 1....

POL Converters

Related Companies

Interface Displays & Controls Inc

Certified ISO-9001/AS9100, veteran-owned, small business. Interface specializes in designing, reverse-engineering and...

Southwest Antennas

Designs and manufactures high-performance RF and Microwave antennas and accessories designed for today’s communicatio...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

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

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

GE Aviation Systems

Designs and manufactures high reliability microelectronics for aerospace and military applications. Thick film hybrid...

Cobham AvComm (formerly Aeroflex Test Solutions)

Is a global leader in avionics, communications, and synthetic test, monitoring, and control for commercial, governmen...

Fabritech Inc

Fabritech was established in 1986 and specializes in the fabrication of EMI, RFI, and thermal shielded products made ...

KAMAKA Electronic Bauelemente Vertriebs GmbH

One of the leading Hi-Rel suppliers in Central Europe for more than 23 years. The quality of our products and the tec...

Henniker Plasma

Plasma Treatment Equipment - Plasma Cleaners, Plasma Etchers, Plasma Coating & Plasma Surface ModificationWe are the ...


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...

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