Surface Forces: Windows for Warships, the Operating System

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March 5, 2007: The British Royal Navy has adopted a specialized version of Microsoft Windows 2000 ("Windows for Warships") for its new Type 45 destroyers. This is a big step forward, as many British warships are using computers, and operating systems, a decade or two old, and much less powerful than current PCs. While Windows has long been criticized for its unreliability, that is not the case with Windows 2000, and it's successors (XP and Vista). All three operating systems are widely used in commercial operations (including manufacturing plants, labs and commercial ships). The Royal Navy has already installed similar systems in other ships and submarines. The major expense in using "Warships for Windows" is writing the software that will connect the networked PCs to ship sensors and communications. The navy has found large flat displays excellent ways to view sensor data, and information in general.

As in the U.S. Navy, the sailors took the lead here, bringing their own PCs, usually laptops, aboard soon after these systems became available. Sailors often used their own computers to automate some of their work. In some cases, they were allowed to rig their PCs into some ship systems. It eventually became pretty obvious that PCs were the way to go. Again, the commercial shipping industry had already created a market for PCs customized for use at sea, and for dealing with typical shipboard operations.

 


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