Why is MIL-STD 461 an Important COTS Feature for our Military?

Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) has been the driving force for government portable, desktop, and rack mount computer procurement for over a decade. However, when these portables are purchased for the Department of Defense (DoD), COTS sometimes is not enough. In the military world, these computers must coexist with all other equipment, including powerful radio, radar, and microwave transmitters as well as highly sensitive receivers. Depending on their use, many of these COTS computers must be upgraded to meet more rigorous military needs.

For the DoD, specifying a computer's electromagnetic interference (EMI) and its electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is an important judge on how well the computer will operate within many "noisy" environments. MIL-STD 461 documents the EMI requirements for a wide range of applications, from trucks to ships to aircraft to fixed installations, not to mention the different requirements within an application (e.g., above deck and below deck on a Navy ship). There is also a trend to tailor the requirements to particular applications. Although the most modest EMC requirements are not much different from COTS commercial requirements, most applications are decidedly harsh.

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