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Windows for Submarines

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I acknowledge that the title for this blog posting is an intriguing concept but I thought it would get your attention better than the official project name – Submarine Command System Next Generation (SMCS NG).

Windows for Submarines is the programme undertaken by the Royal Navy and BAE Systems to equip the nuclear-propelled and nuclear-armed warship fleet with a Windows-based command system.  The transition to the Windows for Submarines command system on HMS Vigilant, a Trident nuclear missile submarine, was completed in just 18 days.

The Windows for Submarines programme is an example of one of the many areas where Microsoft works in partnership with the MOD to ensure that our products have the resilience, security and communications efficiency required to operate effectively in challenging military environments.

Posted by Ian

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  • I have to ask in all seriousness - why was windows chosen over unix or linux ?  cost of training people on gnome desktop ?  Honda uses gnome desktop or used to for their Aibo robot project - I've never heard of a failure.  granted a nuclear sub is a very mission critical operation - which is exactly why I'm bewildered at the choice of windows operating system.

    please shed some light on this,





  • Well at least it makes any linux penguins scare the hell out, having some microsoft sub-nukes below their polar caps  :)

    I'm not sure if this gives me a safer feeling.

    Altough i wouldnt say linux would be safer, perhaps aple could be.. but win2000 thats quite old, they will loose MS support on their nuclear fleet soon.

    Support always goes 2 versions back.

  • 18 days? You guys tested this right? :S


  • And what about the future when Windows 2000 and XP security is no longer supported? (Which by the look of it is right around the bend)

    How much will it cost to upgrade the system then?

  • What about the blue screen of death?  What about fatal boot error due to ntfs corruption?

    Yikes !

  • I run a software company.  We develop bespoke software for a variety of platforms including Windows, and for government agencies.  (However, we have never been involved with the UK's Trident program.)

    I've seen enough of the world to know that security and quality are not good bedfellows with the concept of profit.  

    It's beyond me what fallacy of logic caused the UK to spend taxpayer's money on foreign, proprietary and closed-source software, written by a company with a long history of serious flaws, ostensibly attributable to their continual conflict of quality/security vs. profit.  

    When the application is one of national security then, I believe the leaders of the UK should have a fiduciary duty to ensure that the UK has access to the source code and that the UK does their own vulnerability research on that source.  This is basic best practice and a matter of common sense. It simply is not sufficient to trust the consumer-grade products of a foreign, for-profit organization.  

    The linked article suggests that the migration will save 22M pounds over the next 10 years.  I've seen this kind of claim time-and-time again.  In my experience, it is usually the result of Microsoft contributing non-objective bias the ROI analysis.  Such claims are most often nothing but bunk.  

    Nevertheless, even if such savings were realized, then I am compelled to say that 22M pounds over 10 years is a piddling amount in the big picture.  To make such savings by forgoing what should be considered best practice is not, in my opinion, in the best interest of the UK tax payers.  

    Final words: Keep Windows for the home and office;  when it comes to matters of national security, be damn sure to take the path where profit margin takes a back seat to security.  

  • BSOD? aren't those usually *driver* related?

     A) I'm guessing the Navy isn't trying to use some ATI/NVidia for its DirectX 10 support, so a tried and true card would work well

     B) I'm betting that they're as strict or more so about WHCL than Windows Datacenter Edition (remember that? available to OEM only? requiring more aggressive driver testing/compatibility than the 'retail' Windows'?)... going back to point A, I wouldn't worry as much about drivers

     C) App crashes - let's hope they wrote some good code... and used recent languages/patterns (bounds checking, type safety, etc)... and let's hope they trap their errors (nothing like a .Net Exception on your Nuke Launching app :))

     D) Regarding the file system, granted it seems that Win keeps the disk drives "busier" than Linux, but last I checked ext3 sucks as far as recovering (think "power outage" or other interruption)... I've not seen that happen w/ BSD's FS, and I've not tried Rieser, so maybe those help (but is the Navy *really* going to use Rieser? doubtful IMHO, just from the publicity).

     E) Hopefully they built something redundant worth a crap (RAID for disks, hotswap PSU's, running some sort of cluster / load balancing with another box). I imagine this to be the case, myself.

    I'd get a bigger laugh when someone spills their drink on the console, and all of the redundant systems go out :) (though I'd guess their system redundancies are spread across the sub, not next to each other)

    just my .02

  • Regardless of whether it will work for or against the company, this is an extremely bold undertaking.  I honestly hope it works out best for everyone.

  • I have an insider view on this as when the 'Vangard' class of subs were being built in Barrow I was a member of the command System trials team...this was long before Windows and Microsoft and needless to say niche software, produced in very small quantities was much, much more unstable and buggy than any Windows release! I remember one long session where the only way the system would pass a particular tiral was for every one to 'hands off' their 'pucks' (and upside down mouse) for 15 mins. All went well until 2 minutes to go and some one brushed by the puck. The system went down!!! After a very long day we manged to get past this step!!

    Give me Windows anytime!!!

  • Let's end wars once and for all. Let's switch all weapons to Windows..

  • This could have been a better choice. It's the OS running on the B-2 and F-22, among others.


  • Windows has a great history in naval use:


    "The source of the problem on the Yorktown was that bad data was fed into an application running on one of the 16 computers on the LAN. The data contained a zero where it shouldn't have, and when the software attempted to divide by zero, a buffer overrun occurred -- crashing the entire network and causing the ship to lose control of its propulsion system."

  • Sure.... and I hope USB drives are forbidden from being used in the submarines, right?


    Oh, My! Sometimes I just need a higher dose of black humor to enjoy this kind of things.

  • So by the logic that a company shouldn't make a profit, then maybe the companies that make the electronics shouldn't make a profit either.  Or the add-ons to the Trident vehicles.  Oh, wait a minute,e the British paid for the Trident vehicle, and it is from the US.

    Ummm, maybe the US should not make any profit.

    No, that wouldn't be the way the British work historically.  After all, many of the Japanese Naval ships hulls were built by the British for profit during the 1930s.  

    Come on, Linux, Unix, whatever, get over yourselves, you would be bragging about Linux being used when there are large patent infrigements and security holes in the kernel.  

    Microsoft is building a good operation around interoperability with open source, it is time for the Linux religous to get over themselves and start living in a world that doesn't care that you only use free non-profit software.  Over the next few years the issue is going to be: MAKE MONEY.

    If you haven't noticed, there is a big hole in the economic atmosphere

  • RD is right on so many levels.  I couldn't have said it better myself.

    To reiterate:

    1) Use an OS that was specifically designed for a submarine; not a consumer grade OS.

    2) Profit should take a backseat.

    3) National security and using a closed source OS via another country isn't a smart move.  Saving 22M pounds over national security isn't wise.  Is national security only worth 22M pounds?

    DISCLAIMER: For the record; I am a US citizen.

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