What a bizarre label! It can’t be important. NO DO NOT PRESS ON … • The register


Who me ? Embark on a nautical component of Who, Me? where the words “Don’t touch this button!” have quite subdued meaning.

Today’s story comes from a regomised reader like “Trev” and has a slightly naval tinge.

“I participated in the installation of a system in a corvette for a navy in the Middle East,” he told us. “Our client was naive, hopeful and damn difficult at the same time.”

The gasolines should go downhill at this point, as the corvette in question was not of the four-wheeled type, but rather a small warship. Not quite a frigate (although some have been redesignated as such), but a cut above a patrol boat. Corvettes are typically armed with medium to small caliber missiles and cannons.

The affected system was a Vertical Launch System (VLS), which does exactly what the name suggests. A VLS is a missile hold and fire system from naval platforms (such as a corvette). Each VLS consists of a number of cells and each cell can contain different types of missiles. Someone presses a button, a missile is fired vertically, clears the cell then moves towards the unfortunate recipient of his explosive largesse.

The most commonly used example of the breed is the Mark 41, of which more than 11,000 cells have been delivered or ordered. The devices are used by navies around the world.

As for Trev, his team was in the installation phase. The client was on board to observe the events and hopefully sign the documents. And, as is so often the case, it took time and attention began to drift.

“A significant amount of test equipment,” Trev said, “was located in the VLS missile compartment during the acceptance testing of the interface with the VLS.”

Not cheap, we think, given that government money was probably involved.

“The account managers were starting to get bored …”

One of them lazily stared at the control panel as Trev’s team took care of the preparations for the trial.

Looking back, what happened next was obvious to anyone who has encountered a client who was not handcuffed securely to an office chair.

“What is the button marked” Pre-wet “for? Came the question.

We imagine that the weather has slowed down a bit at this point, like the response “Don’t tap this button!” Came just a millisecond too late.

“Our budding rocket specialist pushes the button,” Trev sighed, “The VLS space is doused with water, including a lot of (expensive) test equipment.”

Not surprisingly, the trial had to be called off. The test engineer had to start looking for new test equipment.

And the customer? Looking for lunch, we are waiting. Or, as Trev said, “bugger[ed] disabled [on] an undeserved rest. “

Tough but, let’s face it, as far as the missile launch system acceptance tests go, it could have been a lot worse.

We’ve all had clients who have done surprisingly silly things over the years. Have you ever got bored and started pressing buttons when maybe they shouldn’t? Tell your story with an email to Who, Me? ®


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