Five trends in military interconnect

In the run-up to DSEI, Electronics Sourcing asked ODU-UK’s MD, Nick Harper, for a heads-up on five trends in circular military connectors 

For decades various MIL specifications, such as MIL-DTL-38999, have been the de-facto connector choice. However, based on work with the Future Soldier programmes, ODU realised these traditional connectors were no longer suitable. Similar problems facing foot-soldiers also occur inside supporting vehicles and similar solutions are required.

To expand its military business, ODU wanted to ensure its ODU-AMC® (Advanced Military Connector) outperformed existing MIL-STD connectors in three specific areas: durability, ingress protection and size. High speed data and connector locking were also identified as areas of concern by OEMs. 

Durability: Most MIL-STDs only specify connectors should be capable of 500 mating cycles or less. Although there is no ‘standard use case’, it might be reasonable to assume electronic equipment carried by a soldier will be connected/disconnected every day for at least half the year. So, depending on connector choice, many could be limited to less than two years use before servicing. To solve this problem, ODU settled on 2,000 mating cycles for the ODU-AMC®.

Ingress protection: Mil-STD connectors are not actually IP-rated but reflect various specific-use tests. For MIL-DTL-38999 and miniature 38999 connectors this is from the ‘altitude immersion’ requirement but only testing connectors when mated. By comparison, ODU-AMC® thread-lock connectors are waterproof to IP6K9K at 20m for two hours.

Size: Flange-size is critical, determining the distance between connectors or to a side wall. 

Compare the options for a system requiring a minimum of 20 signal lines of 0.5mm wire, using a jam-nut receptacle. All four options satisfy the requirement, but the space envelope is vastly different, with the smallest 30 per cent smaller than the largest. Furthermore, the ODU-AMC® has 26 contacts, while the others only 20 or 22. 

These connectors are inherently smaller and push-pull locking can eliminate the additional finger-space needed for rotation-locking.

High-speed data: The ODU-AMC® can transmit all current protocols, with transfer rates up to 14.4Gbits/s, reliably connecting weapons, comms systems and vehicle connections. 

Connector locking: Four sub-types of 38999 address specific problems facing OEMs. However, the exact sub-type of receptacle and plug must be specified at each connection point in the vehicle, allowing little design flexibility. To change that, the ODU-AMC® T Series offers a common bulkhead or receptacle for each shell size, with three plug variants.

This lets the locking method be determined, at any time, by the choice of connector plug used by the equipment plugged-in. Thread-lock for applications dealing with extremely strong vibrations; push-pull with reliable ball-locking; and break-away (or snatch) plug which releases the connection with a straight pull, for quick, easy disconnection in critical situations.

ODU believes this three-in-one connector could be a game-changer for in-vehicle equipment and looks forward to discussing the product with purchasing professionals at DSEI.