Modern defence communication innovations offer innovative and more economic capabilities to aid army commanders to use every scrap of advantage gained to make battlefield decisions faster when observing, orienting, deciding, and acting (OODA) in challenging operations.
This digital revolution is advancing using some key technologies that are maturing swiftly – artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), miniature low-cost sensors, and efficient wearable devices. All of these rely heavily on physical connectors that need to be capable of handling unprecedented volumes of data with minimal power and weight requirements.
Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS)
A recent example of this phenomenon is the US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), which has digital situational awareness devices and high-res sensors to heighten a soldier’s sensing, decision making, target acquisition and engagement capabilities, making them more lethal and mobile when compared to adversaries.
In 2020, the US Army sent out a call to all defence industry players to innovate new digital technologies that can be used to make their soldiery more effective and protected. These could be any and all body-worn systems, hand-held devices, smart electronics and information processing to increase soldier sensing, remote sensing and knowledge management.
With these, soldiers will be directly connected to send and receive many types of information and gain command a tactical advantage with a faster response-to-situation reaction and refinements to their order of battle.
Observing, orienting, deciding, and acting (OODA)
Soldiers need not rely only on their observations, but can be augmented by visual information ‘sent’ to them by a variety of sources:
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
- Ground and air-borne sensors
- Fixed and rotating optics
- Satellite imagery and video
On-body computers sort through this deluge of information, based on mission parameters, and give the soldier unprecedented control of their actions. Hybrid connectors help soldiers orient efficiently toward tactical threats and provide consistent power and data, allowing the soldier to act as a tactical hub during an operation, if needed.
These advanced connectors and cable assemblies have IP68-level sealing and deliver 360º mating freedom. Cable-free devices can be integrated with panel plugs directly into the housing of radios, bodycams, LEDs, alert systems or biometric sensors.
Once a soldier and the unit are oriented, operational options are defined and action selected, again based on pre-set mission prerogatives. Rugged, light and defence-centric connectors add reliability and speed to military decision-making processes by keeping soldiers and units solidly connected to their command centres.
Moving quickly and decisively when orders are given can give a superior tactical advantage to any soldier/unit/army. This requires that the soldier be unencumbered by any part of their battledress becoming a hazard to this performance – no loose flap or loops that could snag, instant connection or disconnection of wearable devices, a single battery to power all body-worn tech – all increase agility and speed of movement. Indeed, the next-gen soldier will be able to rely on and apply the kinds of information and insight once available only to command staff.
The key is connectivity
Engineers designing military wearable devices and tactical vests are always looking to further simplify connectivity solutions with more rugged, smaller and lighter connectors and cable assemblies, allowing the soldier to perform efficiently and swiftly to command decisions at every step of the OODA decision cycle.
Physical connections in defence systems take a beating, so must be designed to be robust enough to perform perfectly in all the conditions they are required for. Humble physical connectors and cables are critical in ensuring all of the vast machines that encompass global defence systems operate to their potential, and beyond.
Technology around defence communications has come leaps and bounds, and modern tactical control has developed to the point that a battle command centre can know, in real time, where their total assets are deployed.
How this real-time control has developed over time has gone from radio-controlled large assets – armies of soldiers and material, naval ships, aircraft, and logistics – to now, where even individual soldiers can be controlled by direct digital contact.
Modern battlefield connectivity
Artillery, missiles, drones, tanks, vehicles, and even people can be in two-way direct communications with command centres. This creates what is called a ‘connected enterprise’, where each component can be centrally controlled and tactically deployed according to up-to-the-minute data. This includes supporting human and technical infrastructures, a complex supply chain and a broad range of roles for living and digital assets.
Add to this the purely digital offensive and defensive systems comprising energy weapons, hypersonics, quantum computing, and autonomous weapons.
However, from a connected enterprise perspective, one technology stands out in both civilian and military technologies: 5G, together with AI (artificial intelligence) and remote monitoring, is heading toward a force made up of remote, and potentially autonomous, vehicles of all types, further reducing the decision loop.
It’s all about connectors
All of these complicated, expensive, state-of-the-art defence technologies and systems have internal and external components to which they need to physically connect. Integrated circuit boards controlling devices need to have power and data travelling through them in a controlled and secure manner to whichever component to which they receive or send instructions.
Connectors can be any shape, size or capability, and device and systems designers engage with experts in connectors from the inception of their idea. The dizzying variety of use-cases that ends up on the desks of Omnetics’ design engineers could only be handled by a team that has the depth and length of knowledge that this group brings to bear on whichever solution is demanded of them.
One of the best-known suppliers of innovative cable/connector solutions, countless defence companies have knocked on their doors since they began a little over 35 years ago. Every major defence and aerospace company has devices or systems that use Omnetics products.
Specialized customer solutions
Sealing a battlefield I/O connector the second time around
A recent customer design, involving our panel mount Nano360° circular series neglected to seal the connector’s face in an “un-mated” state. This was due in part to the fact that their initial design template featured dust caps, so their design team focused on the sealing properties in a “mated” state.
However, upon releasing the product to the market, they realized that their user (soldiers) quickly cut off the dust caps which made the device susceptible to water ingress.
Omnetics design team was able to re-design the circular connectors allowing for this sealing feature without changing the operational dynamics of the current design, and the design pivot also did not affect the mating connectors already fielded and in use by military personnel.
UAV and Space clients using and designing around 2-piece traditional backshells in accordance with MIL-DTL-83513 have seen vast cost and weight savings by moving to Omnetics’ integrated Micro-D backshells.
This connector configuration allows for designers to continue to utilize all of the features commonly found in traditional Micro-D connectors, but in a 1-pc shell allowing for easy shield-to-shell termination via a band-it platform.