http://www.theregister.co.uk, Almost three years ago the naval systems arm of major UK defence contractor BAE Systems took the decision to standardise future development on Microsoft Windows. an immediate effect was to commit BAE's joint venture CMS subsidiary, AMS, who specialise in naval Combat Management Systems, to implementing a Windows 2000-based CMS system for the new Type 45 Destroyer. But this prompted strong internal opposition from some of AMS' engineers, who had a sound background in Unix and who had, despite resource starvation and a companywide policy to standardise on Windows, been investigating open source alternatives as a foundation for future combat systems.
They lost. Acting as spokesman for the concerned engineers Gerald Wilson compiled a 50 page dossier detailing the unsuitability of Windows as a foundation for a naval command system, and arguing that BAE's Unix history and expertise made open source UN*X a logical and viable way forward. The company then made him redundant. In May of this year Wilson reiterated his concerns to the board of BAE Systems at the company's AGM, pointing out that Windows is “proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation”, has “many and continuing security flaws”, and is not even warranted by Microsoft itself for safety-related use. Why then, he asked, is AMS “shunning established engineering practice” by developing the Type 45's CMS on Windows.
But in July of this year AMS announced, claiming as it did to be 'encouraging' open systems development, that Windows 2000 was “the current baseline console” for Type 45 development. AMS supports this with copious documentation on the AMS approach to open systems, which can be summarised as open, so long as it uses Windows. Earlier AMS had announced the deployment of Windows on submarine HMS Torbay, together with plans to retrofit Windows to Vanguard class and other attack submarines.
And in case you're wondering, the Vanguard class boats carry the UK's Trident thermo-nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. So some people think that's a heap of responsibility for Windows to carry.
As The Register has noted in previous pieces on BAE's interesting Windows plans, this is no trivial matter. Whereas most previous naval deployments of Microsoft Windows worldwide have been overhyped, and have dealt largely with non mission-critical, non-lethal installations, AMS really is committing the Royal Navy to Windows-based command, control and combat management systems. Having spoken up and lost his job for his pains, Gerald Wilson has now contacted The Register. What follows is his story, in his own words.
Gerald Wilson writes: I used to work for BAE Systems, within the division which developed Command Systems for naval warships. Four years ago, I spurred active debate about the future software foundations for these systems. As a long-time assessor of innovative technology, I advocated investigation of, and adoption of, open source UNIX foundations, such as BSD and GNU/Linux. Given that the company