What are MIL-SPEC and MIL-STD?

The United States military is a massive purchaser of goods. Tanks, jets, and weapons of war are the most obvious things the Department of Defense requires, but the military is also a leading purchaser for things like storage solutions, electronics, hardware of all shapes and kinds, service and repair tools, and more. But in the military, everything must be standardized for the sake of reliability, commonality, and compatibility between various systems, allowing maintenance crews to swap out components at a moment’s notice. MIL-SPEC is the set of specifications that the military has set for a particular component, with most of the component’s design rights owned by the government. MIL-SPEC certified equipment is manufactured by various companies to the specifications needed to sell to the Department of Defense and its various contractors.

When a manufacturer uses the term “MIL-SPEC,” they are stating that the component will meet the military standards for that component. For example, MIL-STD-810G is a standard for a broad range of environmental conditions, and is used when selecting hardware for military applications, including marine vessels, ground vehicles, and aircraft. 810 covers the different effects a component may experience, such as shock, sudden drops, fog, humidity, sand, vibrations, leakage, explosions, and more. A MIL-SPEC qualifying product doesn’t necessarily need to test for all these variables, just the ones that are relevant. Part one of STD-810 talks about the process of tailoring the device’s capabilities based on how it will be used. A component meant for use by infantry, for example, is much more likely to suffer from handling shock (dropped, jostled, thrown, etc.) than something mounted in a ship, which will face much more danger from wave-induced vibrations and saltwater fog.

MIL-SPEC is often used as a guideline or advertising feature for civilian sporting and outdoor goods, as well as consumer electronics like smartphones and tablets. Rugged mobile computers are the largest segment within the rugged devices market, like the Panasonic Toughbook, the first commercially available computer rated to military specifications and able to meet MIL-STD-461F, MIl-STD810G, and IP65 prerequisites. The rugged devices market is expected to steadily grow at 7 percent annually from 2019 to 2023.

In theory, any product can claim to be designed to MIL-SPEC if it satisfies at least one of the tests from MIL-STD-810 during its design process. Outside of being used by the DOD, there is no certificate of MIL-SPEC compliance.


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