Funding opens carrier to Windows

The Navy has cleared a hurdle to develop Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system to run the command and control systems for its next-generation aircraft carrier.

Newport News Shipbuilding received a $3.8-billion contract modification Jan. 26 from the Naval Sea Systems Command for CVN-77, which is the 10th and last Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems Inc., a subcontractor, will use some of the budget to design, develop and test the ship's integrated warfare system, according to the Pentagon contract announcement.

Keith Hodson, a spokesman for Microsoft Government, welcomed the announcement because of uncertainty regarding the funding for CVN-77.

In making their case before Congress, Navy officials argued that they can use information technology to reduce the number of sailors needed to maintain the aircraft carrier and reduce overall maintenance costs by scheduling preventive maintenance and other means.

Lockheed Martin's selection of Microsoft, announced in August 2000, showed that Windows 2000 can be stable enough to run tactical applications. Microsoft's competitors who sell Unix operating systems, such as Sun Microsystems Inc., had previously ruled the roost selling command and control applications to the armed services. Microsoft's operating systems and applications seemed best suited for office uses, which could accommodate the occasional system crash with Windows 95 or Windows NT Server 3.51.

CVN-77 will replace the USS Kitty Hawk, which will be 45 years old when the Navy commissions the next-generation carrier in 2008. Construction of the aircraft carrier will begin this year.

CVN-77 will probably run a follow-up version to Windows 2000. That "Son of Windows" version likely will run on 10 Navy ships because Microsoft has signed an agreement to install the software they produce for CVN-77 on seven other existing carriers as well as two carriers to be constructed.

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