Evolving technologies and next-generation systems are creating new connector opportunities in homeland defense and border security.
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We know that the homeland security sector comprises two parts – land and maritime border security. Evolving technologies and next-generation systems have created new growth opportunities for the connector industry in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), and the littoral combat ship (LCS).
The UAVs and UASs are used more extensively in combat operations, while the LCS, although not slated for overseas missions, will be utilized by the US Coast Guard for many coastal operations in US waters, some being security operations.
In 2015, military and defense acquisitions and RDT&E (research, development, testing, and evaluation) budgets will drop another 4%, as will expenditures by the Office of Homeland Security for the Coast Guard.
Unmanned aerial vehicles comprise 6% of the total budget for aircraft and related systems. The largest outlays, though, are in the RDT&E budget for the Global Hawk, UCLASS Carrier Launched System, and the MQ-9 Reaper. Although these expenditures are not aligned with specific production rates, the spending growth rate for all three programs is more than 100% for 2015. It’s well-publicized that the larger UAVs are used as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) as well. For now though, we can accept the overlap between the two since they are the same types of platforms.
The appropriation for this program has been cut from four ships per year to three, as is reflected by future deliveries. The total program has been cut from 55 ships to 52 and will be cut once more, with estimates at a total of approximately 32 ships. The primary reason for the reduction is the current determination that the ships are too small for overseas combat operations. Those ships will be replaced by a program for a patrol frigate with more fire power.
US Coast Guard
The Fast Response and National Security Cutters are designed to replace the aging fleet of smaller vessels like the High Endurance Cutter. Appropriations include initial design of a future Offshore Patrol Cutter. These ship programs comprise about 80% of the appropriated funding for US Coast Guard assets in 2015.
Although connector opportunities will vary by platform, connector products needed for these projects include:
- D-subminiatures and their corresponding contacts
- Mil-spec circular connectors and contacts
- Rack-and-panel connectors
- Ruggedized fiber optic connectors
- Micro and nanominiature connectors
- Mil-spec RF connectors
- Mil-STD-1553 data bus connectors and terminators
- Terminals and splices
Together these three platforms amount to $7 billion (or 4.2%) of the total US Department of Defense and Homeland Security Defense budgets’ acquisition and RTD&E appropriations of $166 billion. The corresponding market for connectors in the US for military defense programs is about $1.4 billion. Based on current equipment numbers, these three platforms, when used in air and maritime security, should amount to approximately $60 million in connector opportunities.
Terry O’Brien is an experienced regional sales manager who has held positions at Cooper Interconnect, ICORE, and Tyco Electronics.