The Environmental Testing of Military Computers

Environmental Testing is something that varies in its meaning from industry to industry, with different tests and requirements used in each. In rugged computing, a number of tests are carried out on a product to ensure that it is able to operate and be stored in all manner of extreme conditions. The tests carried out can be anything from placing the product in a temperature chamber to ensure it works at high or low temperatures all the way to simulating the fall off of the back of a vehicle to make sure it can withstand sudden shocks.

When working with aerospace and defence projects there are strict environmental testing rules that need to be met. These are typically to the DEF STAN 00-35 standard (for UK projects) and MIL-STD-810 (for rest of world projects) and are seen as the minimum standards that hardware needs to comply with.

There is a lot of information available for each of these standards, so for the sake of not writing a thesis length article here, we’ll just cover the basics for each and why they are important. If you do want to learn more about a specific test, put a comment below and we can get some more information across to you.


High and Low Operating Temperature – These tests are performed to ensure that the product is capable of operating beyond the temperature of the environments it is designed to operate in. These can be extremely high or extremely low temperatures depending on the application and destination it is bound for. Our products are often used in extreme climates, sometimes as low as -40°C all the way up to +70°C.

High and Low Storage Temperature – Similarly to the tests performed for operating temperatures, these tests are carried out to make sure that products are able to be packaged and stored at both very high and very low temperatures without failing when removed from storage.

GRiDCASE 1590 Temperature Testing

GRiDCASE 1590 being put through High and Low temperature tests

Humidity – Humidity tests are carried out to make sure that a humid environment does not affect the product. We ensure that water cannot form within the product or hardware when it is used in humid climates. This test is carried out in a specialised humidity chamber that can change the environment and increase or decrease the humidity based on the requirements. We test GRiD products to 95% humidity which allows us to be confident that no matter the environment or the humidity within it, our products will work as they are supposed to.

Salt Fog – The Salt Fog (or Salt Spray) test is a standardized and popular corrosion test method, used to check corrosion resistance of materials and surface coatings. This test is one of the more severe tests and is carried out by blasting the product with a salt spray mixture for a pre-defined period of time (with more stringent requirements going for longer periods of time).

Solar Radiation – Solar Radiation (or Sunshine) testing is a unique test with a very limited number of Test Houses able to provide this service. Solar Radiation testing is performed to check how products will react to photo-chemical effects of ultraviolet light, or in simple terms, how the product will react to prolonged periods of sunlight. This is done for two reasons; firstly, to see if or how the exterior of a product will be affected by prolonged sunlight (think how the sun fades the colour of walls/paintings etc. over time) and secondly, combined with operating temperature testing, to check how the product operates when exposed to high temperatures.

Contaminants – Contaminants testing is carried out to assess how a product reacts to a variety of chemicals and liquids or even gases. This test ensures that there are no unwanted reactions or issues that appear should a product be exposed to a particular chemical. We ensure that all materials used withstand these contaminants and that the products are fully sealed. It is not just the effects of dangerous chemicals or jet fuel that is assessed, we are often asked to test against Coca-Cola damage!

Mould/Fungal Growth – Fungal and Mould growth tests are carried out to make sure that any coatings or materials used are not going to suffer from fungal growth when they are taken out into the field and stored in potentially damp conditions. For instance, as we have customers that are within the naval industry we have to make sure that none of the materials we use to build our products will suffer from mould when stored in ships.

Vibration Testing – Vibration testing is carried out to test the quality of the product and make sure that it is able to stand up to its intended use without coming apart or suffering defects that would stop it from working. This testing is carried out in a number of different ways, depending on the specific requirements. Vibration levels vary depending on the environment the product is used within. The vibration profile of a Helicopter varies to that of a product mounted to a tracked vehicle or within a fixed-wing aircraft.

Shock Testing – Similar to vibration, shock testing tests the ability for products to deal with any sudden shocks that the product might receive. The tests for shock are typically done in the following 3 tests;

  •  Shock testing by a rapid application of G-forces to ensure that the product can withstand rapid acceleration when needed.
  • Shock, drop and topple testing which simulates products in use, this is done to make sure that products used out in the field will be able to withstand accidental drops or knocks when in use.
  • Drop testing where a product is dropped from a height of 1.25m, 26 times on each face, side and corner. This is because, over the typical lifetime of a hand-held product, it is expected that it will be dropped a total of approximately 5 times. This test allows you to change the product up to 5 times during the 26 drops. We recently took our GRiDCASE 2530 through this test, using the same unit for each of the 26 drops and passed successfully!

IP Testing – One of the most well-known tests, is IP testing. This is in part due to the fact that most smartphones are now registered as IP compliant to one degree or another. IP stands for Ingress Protection and defines how long or how well an electrical device can withstand dust and water. The most common of this is IP67, meaning the product or device is Dust tight (no ingress of dust whatsoever) and can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes in up to 1m of water. Here at GRiD, we ensure all of our products are qualified to IP67 as a standard, and where possible IP68, which allows us to submerge our products in over 1mof water for a defined amount of time.

Sand and Dust Testing – Sand and Dust testing is exactly what it sounds like, it is a test to see how resistant the product or unit is to sand and dust, for example, when used in a desert. With both of these being small particles, it is very easy for them to get in to and interfere with electronic products. To ensure that small particulates like sand and dust do not get in to or interfere with our products we build everything so that the final product is fully sealed, including all internals, removable sections and keyboards/ buttons.

Each test has a specific pass or fail criteria, with most tests requiring that the product works as it should do afterwards, while some simply require that it stays intact and does not lose any parts, inadvertently creating foreign objects.

17717 23C Dust 6hr-4-1

GRiDCASE 1590 during sand and dust testing


Because of the industry we operate in, all of our products are designed by us, from the ground up, to withstand the harshest environments. Test Houses are our second home and we regularly test to both DEF STAN 00-35 and MIL-STD-810. With 27 years’ experience, we have seen it all and have used all of the lessons learnt to improve our products survivability.

Not wanting to give away all of our secrets, but when we build our products we use proven sealing design, components designed for extreme environments and materials proven to pass the tests laid out above. Be it the aluminium tool plate that forms the chassis for our units, the DEF STAN 80-208 Paint or the Silicone fully sealed Keyboard, everything is built to survive and operate to the best of its ability no matter where it is used.

If you want to learn more about Environmental testing and what we do to make sure that our products pass any test we put them through, give us a call on +44 (0)1628 810 230 or drop an email to and one of our team will happily help you out.