Commercialising products for the military market

Author : Pete Dorey, Principal Consultant at TÜV SÜD Product Service and TÜV SÜD BABT

02 July 2018

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Manufacturers of COTS equipment that want to address the military market may assume this is complex and costly; however, the testing process can be minimised by using gap analysis between defence standards and commercial standards, such as those for CE marking.

In the commercial world, there are some 25 European directives that require CE marking, with some specifying exclusions for military equipment and others not.

For example, the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive (2014/30/EU) has no exclusions for military equipment.

The use of COTS equipment in the military domain often requires electromagnetic barriers, such as shielded racks and filters: this reduces the devices’ susceptibility to harsher electromagnetic military environments, therefore enhancing their compatibility with sensitive military systems.

The risk assessment process of Def Stan 59-411 should be used to assess if electromagnetic protection is required when developing military equipment. Using the guidance in Def Stan 59-411 Part 1, a ‘gap analysis’ process helps to identify whether the compliance evidence of the COTS equipment in question is more or less stringent than the Def Stan 59-411 test limit.

If there are any gaps, this will help to specify the additional protection that is required, such as shielding or filter attenuation.

As this is a common issue for equipment used in the military domain, there is now a range of RF-shielded racks and enclosures, within which the equipment can be housed so that the COTS equipment does not have to be modified – and the validity of its CE marking may be preserved.

Power considerations

There are typically at least fifteen separate testing considerations necessary to ensure that a power supply is safe and appropriate for a particular product. Also, as the military typically operates at 50, 60 or 400 Hz, while domestic supplies operate at 50 Hz, this will influence the selection of power components during product development. The power element is therefore a complex process.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Power quality tests for military equipment are harsher than those that would be applied to a commercial product, as mission-critical defence equipment cannot be disturbed by power surges. The electrical power environment can also be very different in naval vessels, military vehicles, and where soldiers rely on batteries or generators in field operations – a completely different environment to that experienced in the commercial world, where electrical supplies are normally consistent.

Environmental considerations

The ability of military products to operate and survive environmental stresses (such as changes in temperature, vibration and shock) is paramount, and consequently requires a rigorous testing regime.

As there are so many variables, extra unknown factors may come into play in the real world, and tests must be developed that combine environments to simulate ‘real life’ scenarios.

This involves reproducing these physical environments in the laboratory, under repeatable conditions that simulate the actual use. BS EN 60068-2 is a general standard which gives guidance on how to conduct environmental testing. Meanwhile, the defence sector has its own specific requirements which sit alongside this, such as the US military environmental testing standard, MIL-STD-810.

However, as BS EN 60068 is not market or product specific, it is a useful tool to tailor environmental tests specific to each individual product need.

Product development budgets in the commercial marketplace are generally much greater than most military research programmes. So, for the military domain there are obvious benefits to be gained from integrating both COTS components and final products into military systems.

Such smart acquisition of capability offers great potential to reduce the transfer time of innovative technologies into useful military products.

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