Evolution of High Density Electronics for Rugged and Portable Defense Systems
Bob Stanton, Director of Technology, Omnetics Connector Corp.
In today’s digital battlefield, miniaturized digital systems are being designed and deployed to extend soldier worn capabilities. These designs and capabilities are enhanced with the use of advanced portable radar systems, which can include technologies like phased array and multiple beam focusing, able to provide extensive data about the battlespace surrounding our defense teams on the ground. These systems are often coordinated through military satellites collecting and distributing data to, and from, Strategic Control centers.
Advanced military satellites, similar to this NASA image, include basic communication channels as well as multi-spectral surveillance data gathering cameras. Information gathered can be sent to a geospatial intelligence, (GEOINT), system that utilizes image analysis software, driving higher speed digital signal data comparisons. Images and data are rapidly transmitted to and from analysis computers that assess potential threats as well as target areas. Management centers can then control focus specifically for higher resolution detail to review and establish operation plans. When required, the remote satellites can direct drones flight paths, UAVs, aircraft and nearby ships for additional maneuvers and aim weapons at critical sites as needed. In-flight weapons, as well as UAVs, can relay precision point position and ranging data derived from LIDAR imaging devices on board back through the satellite to control for final activation.
Weapon Targeting Image
Digital battlespace technologies have expanded and are spreading globally as near-peer adversaries work to surpass this technology. There is a near peer threat of disrupting communications that adversaries have applied to integrated satellite based defense methods using LEO, (low elevation orbit) constellations as well. Surveillance technology is evolving very rapidly as a myriad of new imaging methods are being integrated into designs. This push for higher resolution frames, (images), as well as higher frame rates, (number of pictures per second), significantly improves image understanding driving speeds upward in control circuitry for device direction and operational control. In turn, very high speed digital electronic devices are adding immeasurable support on the ground. Soldier worn electronics must handle massive data at high speeds and needs to be lightweight, rugged and in high-density packages. Portable computers are more often made on single circuit boards and operate with ruggedized high speed CCD or GaAs chips, and are interconnected with micro-miniature connectors and cable assemblies to the master unit on-board the dismounted warrior.
Multi-spectral imaging surveillance systems have continued to enable warriors with night-vision systems for many years and are evolving to include hyperspectral imaging camera technology. New devices apply photon imaging to include ultra-violet and mid-range infrared frequencies. Refracted images can detect critical data about unique materials including radiation and information not previously seen. Surveillance devices mounted on UAVs or satellites overhead can also offer extensive information about the terrain and altitude changes on the battlefront that is beyond the immediate horizon. Specialty armored metals are also detectable and can assist in planning specific deterrent approach during engagement.
With circuit and signal methods rapidly changing, a critical function of the interconnect solution is to match the electrical requirements and preserve signal integrity. Noise, jitter and skewed signals lose the quality of the information degrading the performance of the units they serve. Portable phased-array radar, for example, requires high speed signal capacity to provide improved ISR, (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), targeting, weapon delivery, and threat warning systems. Noise free digital signal interconnections, is critical in reducing the vulnerability of radars to electronic countermeasures (ECMs). Electronically scanned arrays, together with sophisticated software, is used to protect variations in environmental conditions, and determine attempts at jamming. Outside interference in forms of EMI, (electromotive interference), or radiation must be protected within the cable and connector. One must remember cables resemble an antenna in many instances.
Phased Array Connector/Cable
High reliability connectors that are used in military defense applications must perform beyond the older standards of reliability, as well as provide high signal integrity. To achieve these design requirements, the micro-miniature connectors are designed using a pin-to-socket format for mating. Pin configuration is a key in design to maintain flexibility and low contact resistance. Bifurcated spring pins are made of tempered BeCu (beryllium copper) to retain high contact when mated. Pin length and cross-sectional area are larger than most consumer designs to give higher mate-de-mate life and to sustain a more constant insertion and withdrawal force. “Micro-Size” connector pins are spaced at 50 mils, (1.27mm) center to center. “Nano-Size” connectors are set at 25 mils, (.635mm), on center to center spacing. Tapered geometry assures a gradual deflection that minimizes unnecessary high insertion forces and improves the range of inter-mate alignment to the socket for a tight fit by compressing the pins into the socket. Pins and sockets are plated with nickel and then over-plated with gold to ASTM standards. Nickel provides a robust surface while gold offers low resistance and also reduces wear. The back of each pin or socket has ruggedized attachment methods for permanent wire or solder lead attachment to the mating element. Pins and sockets are mounted into insulators molded from ruggedized LCP, (liquid crystal polymer), and finally assembled into metal shells used for protection with mounting devices to insure strong interconnection during operations.
Omnetics Nano-D Connectors
High-reliability micro-miniature connector designs meet demands and are assured of performance in the defense theater. Omnetics Micro-D connectors are qualified to Mil-DTL- 83513 and Nano-D connectors to Mil-DTL- 32139. These connectors and cable are specifically designed for high-density rugged, lightweight performance and are heavily deployed in military, aerospace and satellite technology. System designers can work directly with Omnetics on-line to insure proper selection of standard connectors and/or to vary the designs to meet packaging and or wiring requirements. As digital speeds increase, designers can work directly with “High Speed Digital” design specialists using solid model imaging and signal speed simulation software to solve the issue. Special shielding and selection of unique plating metal is available. Outer shell, over-molding can be added to improve the connection processes for gloved warriors. Unique shell shapes and requirements are quickly adapted to the military quality interconnect designs by collaborating with your Omnetics sales person on your applications specific requirements.
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