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Royal Navy completes Windows for Submarines™ rollout

forza_milan

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The Royal Navy and BAE Systems plc were pleased as punch yesterday to announce that their implementation of Windows for Submarines™ is complete ahead of schedule. Windows boxes on Ethernet LANs are now in control of the UK's nuclear-propelled and nuclear-armed warship fleet.

The programme is called Submarine Command System Next Generation (SMCS NG), and uses varying numbers of standard multifunction consoles with two LCD screens, hooked up on an internal Ethernet network installed on each sub. Initial reports as the programme developed suggested that the OS in question would be Windows 2000, but those who have worked on it have since informed the Reg that in fact it is mostly based on XP.

BAE and the Navy say the project has completed early, as many of the systems were installed extremely fast. The entire command system of HMS Vigilant, a Trident nuclear-missile submarine, was apparently replaced with the SMCS-NG Windows LAN in just 18 days, according to BAE. The use of commercial-off-the-shelf technology is expected to save the taxpayer as much as £22m in support costs over the next ten years - a bit more than £2m a year, or about a thousandth off Trident's running costs.

“This is a fantastic achievement," said Captain Pat O'Neill. "From speaking to operators and maintainers, I know how much they like SMCS NG. BAE Systems' work is proof that we can get commercial off the shelf technology to sea quickly and support it affordably."

Many in the software community have viewed the Royal Navy's wholesale move to Windows-based command systems with concern, feeling that the savings are not such as to justify possible losses in security, reliability and assurance. In addition to the existing nuclear submarine fleet, the RN will use similar equipment to handle its new Type 45 destroyers (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/27/hms_diamond_launches_ouch_ouch/) in combat, and versions of SMCS-NG will also lie at the core of the upcoming Astute-class subs.

Here on the Reg naval desk, we'd go relatively easy on submarine worries - even the Trident boats - as sub command LANs are by their nature very isolated and physically secure, and submarines almost never need to give their command systems autonomous firing authority.

By contrast, however, an air-defence destroyer like the Type 45 - if it is to be much use - will fairly often have to give its collection of Windows boxes the ability to loose off a sheaf of Aster missiles without human authorisation. Shooting down the possible supersonic sea-skimmers of tomorrow will be even more impossible with the delays of having humans in the loop.

Just to add to the slight feeling of nerves, a destroyer LAN will need to be connected to other networks off the ship as a matter of routine, and physical access to a destroyer is hugely easier than to a sub as well.

So we aren't really looking at Windows boxes triggering nuclear armageddon if something goes wrong here. But we just might, if things go wrong, be looking at a computer snag causing another USS Vincennes airliner shootdown disaster (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/3/newsid_4678000/4678707.stm) in coming years. Or, of course, at British sailors of the future staring helplessly at what would shortly be literally a blue screen of death, as the shipkillers bored in without response. ®

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/16/windows_for_submarines_rollout/
 

Infanteer

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I wonder if the British Nuclear assets also moved to Mozilla or Firefox a couple days ago while Microsoft sorts out that grave security breach with IE?  ^-^
 

geo

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woulda thought that a Unix based o/s would be safest and better all round - but what do I know :p

It's been a while since I've heard anyone refer to the "ethernet" - they've been working on this thing for a long time - right ?
 
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aesop081

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Even RN subs can now have to deal with the "blue screen of death" or the dreaded "mdb.dll" error !

Can you imagine , during a SLBM launch , getting

"Updates for your submarine have been installed.You must restart you submarine"
 
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aesop081

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good thing its not Vista......

VISTA SECURITY ALERT !!

It looks like you are launching a nuclear ballistic missle. Cancel or Allow ?


 

KingKikapu

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I'm reminded of an old case we studied in medical physics where someone incorrectly programmed the radiation shields on a linear accelerator used in cancer treatment.  Instead of staying open for the correct length of time, there was a nested loop operation that kept the shield open for orders of magnitude longer, thereby exposing the patient to a lethal dose (many times over actually) of Cobalt 60 radiation.  The patient died a month later in unimaginable pain.

All because of a coding error.

Don't mess this one up boys.
 

navymich

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Windows for Submarines?  Is that really safe?  I mean, do we have the technology to make them leakproof?  I can only imagine what the pressure at that depth would do!

;D
 

Nfld Sapper

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mudhut mich said:
Windows for Submarines?  Is that really safe?  I mean, do we have the technology to make them leakproof?  I can only imagine what the pressure at that depth would do!

;D

Ask the Russians.....

;D
 

George Wallace

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mudhut mich said:
Windows for Submarines?  Is that really safe?  I mean, do we have the technology to make them leakproof?  I can only imagine what the pressure at that depth would do!

;D

Every Deep Sea Submersible I have seen has had windows.
 

NL_engineer

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CDN Aviator said:
good thing its not Vista......

VISTA SECURITY ALERT !!

It looks like you are launching a nuclear ballistic missle. Cancel or Allow ?

Just what every Captain wants to see, let alone it will pop up  for just about everything you do  ::)
 
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