By John Rhea
PHOENIX - Miniature connectors currently used in the U.S. Navy`s F/A-18 jet fighter-bombers are being designed into the U.S. Army`s Land Warrior integrated fighting system for the infantry soldier as part of an effort to reduce the system`s weight.
These are standard products, notes Bob Stanton, senior applications engineer at Nanonics Corp. in Phoenix, which supplied similar connectors to NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope. They are standard 25 mil pitch and weigh 0.2 to 0.7 grams, a considerable improvement over the two or three ounces of standard connectors.
They are used mostly for the front-end sensors and also enable the system to use small-diameter cabling, 12 mils instead of the conventional 19 mils.
This does not sound like much at first, but there are an estimated 1,000 feet of cabling in each soldier`s system. Furthermore, says Stanton, the situation is likely to get worse in future systems as more functions are packed into multi-chip modules (MCMs), resulting in more pins to interface with the rest of the system.
In the case of Land Warrior, however, conventional cables and connectors are used at the back end to interface with the board-level computer.
Price is another matter. Although Nanonics officials supply their "nanominiature" connectors and cable assemblies as standard products, they are still "at the top of the experience curve," Stanton, says and are about twice as expensive as conventional connectors.
Military systems can benefit from the new connectors, although Stanton says he doubted that there was sufficient volume in spacecraft applications (particularly because of the hermeticity requirements) to drive down costs there. Nonetheless, the same technology is also being used in medical virtual systems, helicopter and infrared night vision systems, and other head-mounted displays.
Bob Whitcraft, integrated helmet products program manager at Honeywell Military and Avionics Division in Minneapolis, adds that the technology is applicable beyond Land Warrior for such other military applications as medics, maritime uses, and combat vehicles in which visual and audio information must be delivered to users.
Honeywell is the subcontractor to Hughes Defense Systems of El Segundo, Calif., for the electronic subsystems of Land Warrior, and Nanonics is Honeywell`s sub for the connectors.
Tiny connectors developed for the F/A-18 aircraft are now part of the U.S. Army Land Warrior program to enhance the command, control, and situational awareness capabilities of infantry soldiers.