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Solutions for In-Vehicle Tactical Communications and Power Interconnectivity
Robert S. Grzib, Marketing Manager, CDM Electronics
The increasing demand for mobile tactical power and communications capabilities for military use presents new interconnect and cable assembly design challenges. In addition to demanding the utmost in durability and universal connectivity, military requirements make the optimization of finite in-vehicle space critical. Alternative interconnect designs and MIL-spec components maximize performance while addressing the Department of Defense (DOD) requirements for powering in-vehicle radios, GPS devices, and chargers.
Legacy in-vehicle communications and power systems’ size and capabilities
Single-channel vehicle-mounted military radios were developed in the 1930s to supersede visual and light signals, foot and motorbike couriers, homing pigeons, and messenger dogs. These early tactical communications radios were big, heavy, and bulky and therefore commonly mounted in Jeeps, armament carriers, and trucks. Their outsized physical dimensions, high-current power demands, and complexity relegated their usage mainly to single-purpose “signal corps” vehicles. For situations in which longer-range communications capabilities were needed, radios were installed in special “radio vans,” the predecessors to today’s military mobile radar vehicles.
In-vehicle communications and power systems optimize performance and limited interior space
The vehicle that initially compelled engineers and military contractors to create application-specific power interconnect components was the U.S. military’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly referred to as a Humvee. First introduced 1988, over 280,000 Humvees were manufactured. The vehicles were specifically designed for the SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) family of VHF-FM combat-net radios (CNR) to provide the primary means of command and control for infantry, armor, and artillery units. The radio had no charging or additional ancillary systems requiring power. Over 500,000 SINCGARS were manufactured in a variety of form factors and were typically employed in military vehicles. As they were strategically installed in the center of the vehicles’ forward dash, they eventually began to encroach into the driver compartment. Despite multiple attempts to re-configure the available mounting area in so many units, it was determined that optimization of the existing space was significantly more cost-effective. Any solution would require standardized MIL-DTL-55181 connector interfaces and similar performance specifications (e.g., voltage drop, contact compatibility, shell plating equivalency, and environmental durability).

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