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New carrier does not “quite” run Windows XP

by on30 June 2017

It does at the moment, but not for much longer.

The Royal Navy has been a little disappointed that its high-tech aircraft carrier’s launch has been overshadowed by the fact that hacks noticed it was still running Windows XP.

When reporters were given the grand tour, some sharp eyed types noticed the old XP screen savers and asked if the ancient and insecure operating system was being used. It was a good question, but it appears that the Navy’s PR didn’t provide the right answer.

The UK Defence Journal explained, the Queen Elizabeth does not use Windows XP for its computer systems, in fact the Ministry of Defence explicitly confirmed in 2015 that "Windows XP will not be used by any onboard system when the ship becomes operational", adding that "this also applies to HMS Prince of Wales", the second carrier in the Queen Elizabeth class.

Windows XP, Windows 7, and other versions - as well as other operating systems - have been used by contractors installing and testing equipment onboard the new carrier, but none of these will be used when the ship enters full operational service.

In fact, the Queen Elizabeth class uses a proprietary operating system designed by BAE Systems, known as Shared Infrastructure. The details of which
BAE explained last year. The Queen Elizabeth class will also be the first ships to be built with a BAE Systems designed, new state-of-the-art operating system called Shared Infrastructure, which will be rolled out across the Royal Navy’s surface fleet over the next ten years.

Shared Infrastructure revolutionises the way ships operate by using virtual technologies to host and integrate the sensors, weapons and management systems that complex warships require. By replacing multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks with a single hardware solution, the amount of spares which are required to be carried onboard is reduced, significantly decreasing through-life costs, it reckons.

Shared Infrastructure is already in use onboard HMS Ocean, and is being installed on amphibious transport dock HMS Albion, with plans to add it to Albion's sister ship, HMS Bulwark.

Shared Infrastructure is also being deployed on the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigates, along with other vessels in the fleet, and will eventually be built into the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship. Windows for Warships will live on, for now, on some operational vessels in the Royal Navy. But when HMS Queen Elizabeth enters service in the next few years, it won't rely on Windows at all.

Last modified on 30 June 2017
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