Nuclear submarines, which marry the complexity and danger of a controlled nuclear reaction with the complexity and danger of underwater combat, need fail-safe systems. So would it surprise you to know the British Royal Navy’s subs run on Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows?
That’s what military blog StrategyPage reports:
The British Royal Navy has developed a modified version of the Windows XP operating system for its warships. The first version, “Windows for Submarines,” is being installed on the fleets nuclear submarines. Versions of this operating system is being adapted for surface ships as well.
The British selected a commercial operating system for this because it was cheaper to maintain, and easier to train sailors in its use. It took a lot less time to develop the new ship-wide network (everything is connected by commercial Ethernet cables and software) using Windows, and XP is one of the more stable versions of Windows (which runs on 85 per cent of the worlds PCs). The security risks inherent in Windows (which attracts most of the attention from hackers) were tended to during the modification of Windows for navy use. How well the Royal Navy version of Windows stands up to the hackers, remains to be seen.
It’s interesting to note the UK went with a Windows XP variant and not Windows Vista, which is marketed as the more reliable OS. The USA never made the same calculations: The American Navy runs on Linux.
Let’s hope “Windows for Submarines” is better than the original, or it could bring a whole new meaning to “Blue Screen of Death.”