Overview Military Connectors
By Mike Ball Last updated: January 17th, 2024

Mil-Spec Connectors for Harsh Environments

Connectors are found in a wide variety of military vehicles and equipment, including aircraft, helicopters, naval vessels, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), weapons systems and computing platforms. They allow power, data and electrical or fiber optic signals to be routed to and from different parts of the system. Connectors are usually designed in mating pairs with a plug and a receptacle, one of which will be designated “male” (with pins) and the other “female” (with sockets).

Omnetics rugged connectors

Rugged Connectors by Omnetics

Military connectors are available with a wide range of layouts, construction materials and other features to suit a range of applications. Numbers of contacts may range from one to several hundred, and some military connector systems are capable of housing contacts with different sizes, as well as different types – for example, carrying power and data in the same interface, or signals with different voltage levels. The distance between two adjacent contacts in the same row is known as the pitch, and is a standard way to specify connector layouts.

Military Connectors by Omnetics

Military Connectors by Omnetics

Military connector bodies are typically made from plastic or metal. Metal backshells are more durable but add weight to the connector. Aluminum may often be a good compromise between toughness and weight, and can be anodized to protect against corrosion.

Connectors may use a variety of methods to couple and lock together, including push-pull mechanisms, screw threads, bayonet locking, and latches. Some are designed to be connected and disconnected even while a user is wearing gloves.

Rugged Mil Std Connectors

Subsea Interconnect Solutions by Teledyne Marine

Subsea Interconnect Solutions by Teledyne Marine

Mil-spec connectors typically need to be engineered to withstand harsh environments, with resistance to environmental factors such as water, dust, sand, extreme temperatures, shock and vibration, and EMI (electromagnetic interference). They may also need to withstand being splashed with or immersed in chemicals such as petrol or aviation fuel. Rugged mil-spec connectors will often be designed to be compliant with one or more military standards, such as MIL-DTL-38999 for miniature circular connectors or MIL-DTL-24308 for D-subminiature connectors.

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