Connectors are used on electrical wiring harnesses and are essentially enclosures (i.e., shells) which house contacts with wires. The electrical connection into the system at the contact termination is either a soldered or crimped connection (which is removable from the connector using a special tool). The shell and insert may be moisture resistant or a hermetic seal. The inserts in each connector must be oriented for correct mating, and the shell or insert usually contains a keying feature to prevent mis-mating that could damage the connector or result in an electrical problem.
Connector plugs and receptacles most commonly used for military aircraft were developed in the 1930s. They set the standard for the modern Military Standard (MIL-STD) and Military Specification (MIL-SPEC) connectors. One of the biggest challenges in assembling electrical harnesses is providing the correct connector plugs and receptacles for each reference designator of an electrical harness.
Don’t be confused about the differences between a receptacle and a plug. The difference between a plug and receptacle is that plugs have prolonged connecting pins which fit into a mating socket called a receptacle. A receptacle connector is sometimes called a jack. A receptacle will have mounting features such as a flange with holes. Every electrical harness will have a variety of connector plugs and receptacles.
What does all this mean? It simply means that every connector plug will have a mating connector receptacle and every connector receptacle will have a mating connector plug in the aircraft.
If you want to see some connector plugs and receptacles on the shop floor, schedule a tour. We will show you how connector plugs and receptacles mate together in military aircraft harnesses and panels for the F-16, UH-60, F-22, and AH-1.