'Son of Windows' to control carrier

The Navy's next-generation aircraft carrier — the symbol of American military

might around the world — will rely on a futuristic version of Microsoft

Corp.'s Windows operating system and other commercial technologies for command

and control.

Officials from Microsoft Federal Systems last week attended an initial

design review of the Navy's future CVN-77 aircraft carrier. The company

has been selected to lead information infrastructure development for the

ship and to define the overall systems architecture for high- performance

information exchange. Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance

Systems (NESS) is the lead company, along with Newport News Shipbuilding.

The carrier will act as a steppingstone to what Rear Adm. Jack Chenevy,

program executive officer for strike weapons at the Naval Air Systems Command,

called "a revolution in carrier aviation." Although the CVN-77 will represent

a significant technological advance when it is fielded in 2008, it actually

is a transition platform for the futuristic CVX-1 carrier, which is scheduled

for construction in 2006.

"The CVN-77 is the next advance in carrier aviation," Chenevy said, adding

that it will use many of the same technologies that are being developed

for the DD-21 "smart ship" destroyer. As on the DD-21, new technologies

will reduce the number of crew members needed and will also cut down on

maintenance costs for the CVN-77, according to Chenevy, who made his remarks

during the International Naval Review 2000 in New York City.

"We were given targets of taking man-hours and training hours off the ship,"

said Rich Lockwood, director of the Advanced Naval and C4I Program for Lockheed

Martin NESS Surface Systems. "This is a fairly radical change. Today,

a lot of information exists on a carrier, but it can't get to where it needs

to be easily."

Microsoft Federal Systems will help design the ship's IT architecture based

on the company's Windows 2000 platform. The commercial off-the-shelf software

solution includes a three-year commitment by Microsoft Consulting Services

for technical support during the ship's software design, development and

deployment. Actual construction of the CVN-77 will begin in 2001.

Because of the long lead time involved in the construction of an aircraft

carrier, Microsoft will likely transition the ship to what one company official

called "the son of Windows." The software will run the bulk of the command

and control systems in the three "decision centers" being designed into

the CVN-77's architecture, said Brian Roach, Lockheed Alliance manager for

Microsoft Federal.

The CVN-77 win is a key triumph for Microsoft in the defense industry, because

it sets the stage for the company's participation in the Navy's long-term,

three-phase future carrier design program. "This is not just the one ship.

It will decide the architectures for the next three ships," Roach said.

Microsoft's agreement also includes a back-fit program for seven other

carriers, bringing the total to 10.

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