Electronic Weapons: February 23, 2005


Automated systems, designed to make military equipment safer, dont get much, if any, publicity, until they screw up. This recently happened when the Australian frigate, HMAS Ballarat, had a navigation system malfunction that put the ship into reverse, and did nearly two million dollars damage to the ships propellers and rudder when these items hit some nearby rocks. The exact cause of the incident is not yet known. There may have been crew error involved. What is known was that the ship was making a sharp turn when the manual controls froze. The automatic control system, sensing a problem, then took over, put the ship into reverse and ran onto some rocks before the crew could regain control. The automated system was programmed to take over if it detected an unsafe maneuver. Incidents like this dont happen very often, and obscure the fact that such systems generally work as designed. As a results, accidents aboard ships, aircraft and land vehicles are down 50-90 percent from three decades ago, when such stuff began to appear. But, good news isnt news. So you never knew. Now you do.


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