Page 17 - 2019 Mil/Aero eBook
P. 17

Wiring the Tactical Vest: Reimagining the Role of Connectivity for Communications, Sensing, and the Protection of Ground Forces
Wim Vanheertum, Director, Product Management at Fischer Connectors
The U.S. military and several NATO forces have been working on the seemingly impossible task of reducing the size and weight of soldiers’ equipment while simultaneously increasing functionality and power. For engineers dealing with connectivity issues, this has brought about smaller and smaller connectors, cables, and devices. Weight is a particularly vital consideration for dismounted soldiers, who typically carry more than 80lbs. Given that each soldier wears a backpack and body armor and carries weaponry and ammunition, achieving the desired 20–25% reduction in weight requires rethinking the design and packaging of many types of electronic and communication equipment. For instance, night vision, targeting systems, smart phones, GPS, tactical computers, and communications equipment could be integrated into a very functional and reliable subsystem requiring an array of cables, harnesses, and connectors. All of this equipment is necessary, so product manufacturers must work with their component partners to find ways to shave small amounts of weight from each component in order to achieve significant weight loss.
Dismounted soldiers typically carry more than 80lbs of critical equipment, ranging from tactical vests, backpacks, and body armor to weapons and ammunition. The U.S. military and several NATO forces are working to reduce that load.
Looking beyond the equipment itself can yield weight savings that can’t be achieved by looking at individual devices alone. This approach is changing the way that dismounted soldiers will protect and engage in the future, as prime contractors fiercely compete to cut weight from soldiers’ burdens, while still ensuring that every piece of tactical gear, and particularly sensing and communications devices, remains at the ready.
There’s nothing closer to the soldier than the tactical vest. These vests have long carried soldiers’ gear, protective shields, and ammunition, and there is currently an effort to bring new wearable connectivity technology with essential communications gear and electronic sensors to tactical vests. Connectivity solutions for tactical vests

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