Feeds

Royal Navy completes Windows for Submarines™ rollout

Trident sub's new Windows LAN fitted in 18 days

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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 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 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. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft
MS chases app deployment speeds already enjoyed by Linux devs
Intel, Cisco and co reveal PLANS to keep tabs on WORLD'S MACHINES
Connecting everything to everything... Er, good idea?
SDI wars: WTF is software defined infrastructure?
This time we play for ALL the marbles
'Urika': Cray unveils new 1,500-core big data crunching monster
6TB of DRAM, 38TB of SSD flash and 120TB of disk storage
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
Oracle hires former SAP exec for cloudy push
'We know Larry said cloud was gibberish, and insane, and idiotic, but...'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.