Murphy's Law: September 7, 2003

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Once more, equipment built for one environment has come to grief when it was sent somewhere the designers had not thought of. Canada has an computer controlled radar for spotting incoming artillery and mortar shells and calculating where they were fired from. The generic name for this equipment is "Counter Battery Radar," and the Canadians are using one called ARTHUR (for ARTillery Hunting Radar). This system was built by the Ericsson company, which has plants in Norway and Sweden. The Ericsson gear was built to deal with temperature extremes, but mostly on the low (below freezing) end. Then the Canadians took one of their ARTHUR systems with them to Afghanistan, where it encountered heat, and dust (which is usually present in large quantities when there is a lot of heat) which have caused ARTHUR to fail frequently. The dust got into the electronics, screwing up the circulation of air needed to keep the electronic components from overheating. This sort of thing is nothing new. When Russia began selling large quantities of military equipment to Middle Eastern nations in the 1960s and 70s, similar problems were also encountered. While this made for amusing stories, many manufacturers of military equipment forgot about it over the years, unless they made equipment for customers operating in tropical climates. That very fine ("like talcum powder") sand is common from India to North Africa (and has been, for thousands of years), but keeps finding new manufacturers who are surprised when their equipment encounters the stuff, and gets all clogged up from it. Many manufacturers do not test their gear in all extremes of climate, and go to the expense of adapting the gear to deal with it. A lot of such equipment is never sent to an extreme (usually extremely hot) climates and is never found out. But when that does happen, the results are embarrassing. Ask ARTHUR.

 


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