Impact of Salt, Sand, Dust & Fog on Military Computers

MIL-STD Testing Military Computing

Protecting electronic devices on the battlefield from natural particles like salt, sand, dust, and fog is crucial. These tiny particles can easily penetrate computers, servers, and displays, causing damage to the internal workings and corroding their chassis. To ensure that these particles do not clog filters, cause cracking of the protective coating, or cause any electrical failures, all electrical devices that may encounter these environments must undergo stringent testing.

To address this challenge, the military introduced a standard of “environmental engineering considerations and laboratory tests” known as MIL-STD-810. MIL-STD-810 tests the extremes that a system will experience throughout its service life. Two test methods, 509.5 and 510.5, focus on salt, fog, blowing sand, and dust. These tests are approved for use by all departments within the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and are also used for commercial and industrial units.

Fog and salt are tested under method 509.5, which focuses on accelerated corrosion and electrical problems. These tests are commonly used for Naval purposes or any military section in coastal areas where salt spray and fog is unavoidable. The objective of these tests is to evaluate the protective coating on a server, LCD or mission computer under intense salt and fog conditions. The machines used for the testing are required to produce an environment with 5% salt/fog and is circulated with the system inside. After two days of testing, the unit is inspected by experts for corrosion effects, physical deformities, and any electrical problems.

Sand and dust are tested under method 510.5 and look for any abrasions, penetration, clogging, temperature changes, etc. These tests are most common for sections of the military that are land-based, especially in deserts and remote areas. During the testing process, the machines look to expose the system to any vent clogging, scratches, electrical problems and more. The machines used for testing are built to mimic desert winds as much as possible by keeping the humidity below 30% and the air velocity at 300-1750 ft. Testing takes approximately 12 hours and cycles through different temperature extremes. During these cycles, systems are rotated every 90 minutes to expose all sides to blowing sand and dust.

Regardless of whether a system will be used on land or at sea, testing for salt, fog, sand, and dust is imperative to creating a truly rugged server, portable computer, or LCD display. Small particles can infiltrate a system and compromise a mission, making it essential to pay attention to MIL-STD-810 testing methods 509.5 and 510.5.