Tanker War


In 1987, USS Stark and USS Samuel B. Roberts were damaged in the Persian Gulf. This display presents models of these two ships, two artifacts from the Stark Incident, and videos that relate to the artifacts and events. One of the artifacts, an unexploded Exocet warhead, is mounted on a rotating base that can be controlled by the visitor.


USS Stark button

Several things happen: a video describing the events plays, the points of impact of the missile strikes are illuminate on the Stark model, the plinth for the Stark model lights up, and the location of the incident on the map at the back of the display is illuminated, as shown below.








USS Samuel B. Roberts button

The plinth lights up, the location is illuminated, and a flashing red light illuminates the location where the Samuel B. Roberts was struck by a mine.









Exocet Missile button

Lights up the warhead and missile fragment, plays video describing the Exocet missile and its role in the Stark Incident.

Warhead button

Illuminates and rotates the warhead. Click the reel for a video. In the lower right corner, you can see the illuminated fuselage fragment.


To illuminate the locations of the events on the map, I had originally intended to simply drill small holes in the maps and insert LEDs. I was extremely reluctant, however, to damage the very expensive map, so I decided to indicate the locations with laser diodes.

I’m very glad I made this decision. Initially, I took the location of the Roberts Incident from a video lecture and transferred the location from the video to the map. Turns out, the location in the video was WAY off – by over a hundred miles. Had I gone with the original plan, we would have had to get the map reprinted. As it was, I simply re-pointed the laser. Below, you can see the lasers diodes that highlight the map locations and the mini-spot that illuminates the missile fragment.

As mentioned in the description, several things happen when given start button is pushed. I accomplished this by using the GPIO connections on the BrightSign player. I simply ran the output (5V) through and opto-coupler to activate an Elk relay (12V). From there of course, it was a simple matter of running the lasers and LEDs through the Elk relay. The circuit is seen below. One pair for each video.


One of the Exocet missiles that struck Stark did not detonate. The unexploded warhead was removed, rendered inert, and opened so that the interior could be better viewed. Since this artifact is interesting from two sides, I decided to put it on a rotating base. The construction is pretty straight forward: a thousand-pound-capacity turntable from McMaster-Carr and a ¼ HP valve-control motor connected with a spring rope around Delrin pulleys.

It may seem a little over built, but the warhead is heavy. It was quite an ordeal lifting it onto the platform in the case.

The primary case for this display was re-purposed from a former exhibit, so I was spared having to build a large case. I built the monitor panel from ¾ ply and clad it with 1/32 steel. I left it unfinished to show the tiny bit of rust, invoking the somewhat industrial look of a tanker. The corners are 1.25-inch angle iron held in place with exposed ½-head lag screws.

Note: I could’t find any speaker grills that looked like anything other than contemporary speaker grills, so I just put two pieces of square aluminum stock on the milling machine and drilled 49 holes in them. Time well spent.