Military Electronics Enclosures

Military electronics enclosures are specialized protective housings designed to shield electronic components and systems used in defense applications from environmental hazards, such as extreme temperatures, humidity, shock, and electromagnetic interference
Overview Military Electronics Enclosures
By Mike Ball Last updated: April 24th, 2024

Electronic chassis enclosures provide protection as well as connectivity and additional functionality for critical military electronic systems.

Typically manufactured from materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, or reinforced plastics, they house cards and electronic modules used for applications such as image and video processing, mission computing and flight control, signals intelligence (SIGINT), electronic warfare (EW), radar, payload management and communications.

Enclosures for aircraft electronics are often known as Air Transport Racks (ATR).

Enclosure Standards and Form Factors

Electronic enclosures will typically have a backplane that serves as a way to interconnect the electronic cards inside, providing them with a common power supply and communications interface. The layout of the backplane, including its insertion slots and other aspects of electronic design, will depend on the specific form factor.

Ultra-Thin Rackmount Enclosure by Atrenne

Ultra-Thin Rackmount Enclosure by Atrenne

Common standards include

  • VPX (VITA 46)
  • OpenVPX
  • CompactPCI
  • PXI
  • PXI Express

Electronic enclosures and chassis may also be aligned with the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) initiative to support U.S. Department of Defense applications.

Military electronic chassis may be provided in a variety of standard sizes such as 3U and 6U. In addition to slots for cards and power supplies, they may also provide bays for removable hard drives and data storage devices. The front panels of the enclosures may provide a variety of different I/O capabilities, including MIL-STD-38999 circular connectors.

Ruggedized Defense Electronics Enclosures

6U Universal Enclosure by LCR Embedded

6U Universal Enclosure by LCR Embedded Systems

Rugged enclosures for defense applications need to provide protection against a variety of environmental conditions, including temperature, shock, vibration, moisture and dust, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and chemicals.

Ruggedized chassis may be designed to military specifications such as MIL-STD-810 and MIL-STD-461, as well as aircraft-specific standards such as DO-160.

In order to ensure that the electronic systems within continue to run efficiently despite the heat that they generate, electronic enclosures for military and defense systems will typically require cooling.
Cooling Mechanisms include:

  • Forced air cooling using fans
  • Conduction cooling using heatsinks and thermal conduction
  • Liquid cooling
  • Combined methods
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