VT Miltope RHTU-1 Rugged Handheld Terminal Unit|
Meeting various military requirements in one box
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Though listed under "Mounted Computers" on the VT Miltope website, RHTU-1 stands for "Rugged Handheld Terminal Unit" and describes a unique design that grafts a 10-inch touchscreen tablet with handheld-style controls onto a rather substantial box with near desktop power, connectivity and expandability.
VT Miltope further describes the RHTU-1 as a "personal computer solution is an environmentally enhanced, transportable package. It may be used in a portable configuration or mounted in a vehicle." Given the unit's almost 10 pound weight, it's not entirely clear where the "handheld" part of the name comes from. However, there is a powerful 84 watt-hour battery and the kind of sealing and ruggedness usually applied to mobile units, and so it appears that this substantial RHTU-1 device is indeed designed both as a mobile and a vehicle mount device.
The tech specs are a mix of old and new. The processor is listed as an unspecified Intel Core 2 Duo with 6MB of L2 cache and a 1.8GHz clockspeed. The mobile Core 2 Duo SL9380 would fit into that bracket and it's a competent performer with Intel embedded options (i.e. long life cycle, enhanced reliability, etc.), but with Intel already on their 4th generation of Core processors, any Core 2 Duo is superseded technology. On the more modern side, the unit uses DDR3 RAM and a solid state disk, as well as a sunlight readable display. It's good to remember here that the selection criteria for military technology are often quite different from those for civilian consumer products.
This being a unit primarily designed for military operation, the RHTU-1 addresses a broad range of environmental specs. Operating temperature is 0 to 130 degree Fahrenheit (-18 to 55 Centigrade), and the machine passed MIL-STD-810F (not sure why 810F and not the newer 810G) testing for shock, vibration, altitude, humidity, driving rain, sand, dust, and salt fog, as well as solar radiation, lightning protection, shock bench handling, and more.
What really sets the RHTU-1 apart (and what matters much more than the processor generation used) is the substantial onboard connectivity. Behind a screwed-on protective door on the bottom are two PC Card Type II slots. The battery can quickly be pulled out and replaced with a charged spare. There are two USB ports. All connectors on top have screw-on caps with lanyards. Users get two RS232 serial ports, RJ45 LAN, a multi-I/O connector, VGA for external video, DC vehicle power, GPS antenna and zeroize, and audio.
VT Miltope literature summarizes what it all adds up to as "fast, powerful performance in a rugged handheld system specifically designed to be portable or vehicle mounted," and in a "Versatile computer architecture with a consistent footprint for future upgrades."
Since 2003, Miltope is part of Vision Technologies Systems, Inc., a multi-national engineering group engaged in aerospace, electronics, land systems and the marine sector, itself the US subsidiary of ST Engineering Ltd of Singapore. The VT Miltope arm makes rugged computers and computer peripherals, designed and manufactured in the US, for military, industrial and commercial tactical and aviation applications.
In October 2011, VT Miltope announced it was teaming wth General Dynamics C4 Systems on the Common Hardware Systems-4 (CHS-4) program, a five-year, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with a potential value of $3.7b and a potential for VT Miltope to earn up to $250m over the life of this contract. VT Miltope will provide three military rugged products under this contract vehicle that will meet V2 and V3 CHS-4 environmental and EMI requirements. These products are the Enhanced / Rugged Handheld Terminal Unit, Rugged Portable Digital Assistant, and Notebook Computer Unit (see Miltope press release).