Wire and Cable Connections just as Crucial as Hardened Hardware on the Battlefield: Part 1
When it comes to technology, the military is at the forefront of both innovation and R&D. This has grown in prominence over the last decade with the War on Terror, which has allotted an increase in funds to the military on a scale never before seen in our history. As a result, new and impressive technology (mostly classified) has replaced outdated electronics, which in some cases, have not been upgraded since the Vietnam War. This includes RADAR/SONAR systems, certain field communications and a host of weapons platforms including TOW-missiles and “Wal-Eye” TV guided missiles.
Fast-forward a few decades and we see the incorporation of hardened electronics used on land, sea, and air, as military personnel have to depend on the technology in harsh environments, which can (and has) saved lives. Military personnel on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan now have access to hardened laptops for communications, land surveying/navigation, and target tracking. These laptops feature the same components as their civilian counterparts, except that they’ve been ruggedized for use in hostile environments where terrain and weather play a huge roll.
Laptop enclosures must be able to withstand a certain amount of physical punishment; components like hard-drives need to be easily accessed for removal; and component connections need to be secure and reliable. Using substandard equipment can pose safety risks especially on flight lines where workers routinely use laptops for aircraft maintenance and armaments. Tiny bits of plastic or even a single screw from damaged mobile devices can halt operations as those pieces can actually damage aircraft on take-off (sailors on aircraft carriers routinely scan the flight deck prior to operations).
Soldiers deployed in the field rely heavily on transport, communications, and intelligence to accomplish missions effectively and safely. Any breakdown of those aspects can result in the loss of life and therefore need to be reliable and outfitted with quality components. Tactical communications, advanced radar systems (land and sea), automated weapons systems, and military satellites all require hardened aspects of their component make-up.
The biggest issue affecting soldiers, sailors, and aviators early in the War on Terror was a lack of interoperability communications between the branches. For example, special operations forces (SOF) units often had trouble communicating with air units for tactical support using ground-based radios such as the early AN/PRC MBITRs. Those units were known to fail after being dropped or simply didn’t have enough power and range to send or receive signals. Soldiers often joked that they should just shoot the radio so they knew for certain why the unit had failed.
Check out Part 2...