Testing for safety: Military standards explained – testxchange
What are military standards, how long have they existed and what purpose do they serve? That’s what this article is about.
Whether it’s vehicles, weapons, clothing or electronic devices: the functionality of military equipment can decide life and death not only in combat situations. That’s why military suppliers worldwide produce according to various military standards. What exactly are these about?
Origin of military standards
An early example of the standardization of military equipment is the “Marian army reform” of the Roman commander Gaius Marius in the 2nd century B.C., to whom, among other things, the unification of the Roman weapons of war is attributed. In the later course of world history, many military leaders recognized the importance of standards in order to optimize the function, maintenance, interchangeability and logistics of military equipment. A prominent example is the US manufacturer Eli Whitney, who from 1799 onwards produced large quantities of muskets for the US government made from exchangeable standardized parts. In Germany, the establishment of the Standards Committee of German Industry (later the German Institute for Standardization) in 1917 was also of great importance for military requirements, since, for example, the taper pins standardized in the very first DIN standard DIN 1 were also used in the machine gun 08/15 used by the German army.
Military standards today
In the course of the twentieth century, the importance of military standards grew steadily. In many countries, the respective national standards organizations established themselves as the most important contacts for this purpose. In Germany, for example, DIN has been cooperating with the Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) for over 60 years. In 1957, only two years after the founding of the Bundeswehr, this cooperation resulted in the first military standard in the history of the Federal Republic, and since then DIN’s own Beuth Verlag has published around 100 more every year. In France, the national standards organisation AFNOR also cooperates closely with the Ministry of Defence. In addition to national standards organizations, various other actors often participate in military standards, such as research institutions or private defence companies. The latter also work according to their own factory standards in the development of military equipment.
International military standards
International cooperation in the standardization of applications relevant to armaments is also increasing more and more. In 2005, for example, the British military standards organization UK Defence Standardization (DSTAN), DIN, the armaments company QinetiQ, WIWEB and BWB laid the foundation for the first German-British standardization project: the development of a common standard for de-icing agents at military airfields. In addition to bilateral cooperation, multinational exchange is also gaining in importance for military standardization. In the European Defence Standards Reference System (EDSTAR), for example, the European Defence Agency provides a list of arms-related “best practice” standards selected in cooperation between European industrial companies and government organisations.
Military standards in civilian areas
Military standards are often not strictly separated from civil applications, or certain industrial standards are developed for both military and civil purposes. The accreditation system Nadcap (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program), for example, is relevant both for defence companies and for all civil aviation companies. Testing laboratories performing tests in the defence sector are also often required to have Nadcap accreditation.
In addition, manufacturers of consumer electronics and other products are increasingly advertising with the US military standard MIL-STD-810, which covers various environmental tests, such as weathering tests or salt spray tests. For portable devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers, for example, a particularly high degree of robustness is often suggested using this standard. However, since the use of the standard specification MIL-STD-810 on product packaging is not strictly regulated, corresponding specifications are of limited informative value. In some cases, manufacturers only promise conformity with a small part of the numerous tests defined in the standard. And even these few tests are not always actually carried out by testing laboratories, but it is promised on a purely theoretical basis that the product meets the corresponding requirements.
Testing laboratories for military standards
However, reliable test results are only possible with a test laboratory that offers tests according to military standards. In order to find suitable laboratories, for example, it is possible to use the free online platform testxchange. For example, a manufacturer wishing to have certain tests carried out in accordance with MIL-STD-810 can submit a free request here in just a few minutes so that several qualified laboratories can apply for it.