Subscribe
Notify of
guest
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Thompson

You should send a copy of this article to all the national media. It certainly set the record straight. Max Hastings should be ashamed of himself

Gerry

Really £3 billion for a no aircraft aircraft carrier with the aircraft due in 2020. J35 is a lemon if the engine fires and crap software don’t kill it first. Hastings is right scuttle it.

Stapo

Also by having 2 of these ships, properly fit them out to their true capabilities. And don’t cut back on the type26’s numbers or weapon systems
Maybe the USA would like us to build them a few light carriers, they are in the market for some

stuart broome

Totally agree. These ships represent our only potential world class conventional military capability along with our hunter killers and special forces.
We have other superb military units and some great kit but these are too small to be relevant on the world stage. The army is a home defence force in size and nothing more. The RAF likewise is tiny and seems to struggle to maintain even limited numbers of aircraft on task. It is only at sea can the UK with minimal extra investment be seen as a global player and if anyone is prepared to read some history books they will soon realise that we have always been a maritime nation first and foremost. Unfortunately, the Wests domination at sea has led the media in the UK to take this for granted and is huge risk to an Island trading nation such as ours.

Baltic

Looks like it could knock ’em in the Old Kent Road from the pacific!

AJR37

There are a few errors in this article and the Defence Journal article. In short, QE does run Windows Operating Systems, and currently it is running out dated versions of those systems that have significant weaknesses.
Shared Infrastructure is not an operating system but a virtualisation environment. It means that instead of running one system per machine, it means one machine can run many systems. However, each one still runs as a discrete package, including the operating system.
So unsupported operating systems like Windows XP or 2000 (not updated since 2010) will have vulnerabilities. Imagine that you haven’t serviced your car since 2010 – it may still run ok but there are probably a whole bunch of things unseen that make your car less safe.
Now a successful attack requires a way in and an exploitation. Since 2010, a whole host of weaknesses have been left untouched that can be exploited. So that’s half the battle for someone looking to cause damage (whilst they have been fixed on more modern systems, so more effort is needed to find a weakness in those cases).
If you’ve read this far, you’ll probably be saying that how can you attack a system not connected to the internet or secure on an aircraft carrier? In answer, look at how Iran’s nuclear centrifuges were attacked by Stuxnet or Syria’s air defence network in 2007. Both are tightly controlled, restricted access systems. Both went down.
So by using out of date operating systems, we make it easier for our enemies to attack us. We update missiles, weapon systems and ships to keep them ahead of our enemies. We must do the same with our information systems as they are the weak point that our enemies have identified.

Chris Jones

Do you have any evidence that the ship is actually running Windows based operating systems?

Chris P

“Windows for Warships” is based on Windows 2000, but it is NOT in any way, shape or form the consumer version of Windows XP. It is so highly modified that it has never been, and could never be, updated by Microsoft. So, the fact that Microsoft have stopped updating the retail versions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP is completely irrelevant. Microsoft have had a huge problem getting thousands of organisations to migrate to their newer OSs, because Windows 2000 is arguably the most stable version of Windows ever produced. There is, of course, no such thing as an invulnerable computer operating system and yes, of course, all operating systems need to be continuously evaluated for vulnerabilities and updated. But this is a matter for the MOD, not Microsoft, and I suspect the MOD has no intention of telling the world when and how they update their operating systems. So, in the absence of evidence, let’s not assume that HMSQE is “using out of date operating systems”.

AJR37

You are confusing stability with vulnerability. Your unserviced car may be fine for a daily commute (stable) and yet the brakes may fail at speed (vulnerable). A Hurricane is a remarkably stable plane to fly, but it’s a bit vulnerable against today’s threats.
Windows for Warships was implemented against the wishes of BAE AMS Engineers who were concerned about structural vulnerabilities in Windows. New versions of Windows (7 and 10) were completely rebuilt bottom up to remove those weaknesses. It’s like a kit car built on a Ford engine and chassis. It may not look the same, but anything wrong with those core parts will still exist in the kit car (even if you call it a new name).
Our enemies are very good at identifying and exploiting information weaknesses and using old systems makes their life easier. Otherwise a lay person may ask why not just keep Ark Royal and Invincible – they fly aircraft, it’s an aircraft carrier, so why buy a new one? The same logic applies in IT – if you don’t keep up, you lose.
Companies do not upgrade their IT because it costs money. We pay more each year in the UK in cyber crime than it would cost to upgrade systems and make them less vulnerable. It is the same as buying cladding that is cheaper but not fire resistant or fitting out ships that are not fire proof. It saves money until it is needed, then costs much more.
Finally I’m not assuming that QEC is using out of date operating systems I am stating that it IS using out of date operating systems, and that results in increased costs elsewhere in monitoring and protecting those systems to try and keep them secure. A cheaper and better answer would be to update them.
Link to interview with AMS engineer expressing concern over Windows for Warships
https://m.theregister.co.uk/2004/09/06/ams_goes_windows_for_warships/

Chris P

Let me try again to explain. (1) There is no such thing as an invulnerable computer OS – certainly not Windows 10 and definitely not the even more venerable Unix proposed in the article you referenced. Unix and its offspring, Linux, are now open-source code, which means that the workings of the OS are wide open to any potential hacker. So, you will never eliminate the “increased costs elsewhere in monitoring and protecting those systems to try and keep them secure”.
(2) Windows for Warships is NOT Windows 2000. It has thousands of lines of additional code which would have to be re-written if you changed the underlying OS. It is nothing like the updating process for a consumer OS like Windows XP, 7 or 10. Updating Windows for Warships would certainly not be cheap and, as I said in point 1, any replacement would still be open to potential hacking. Which is why the US Navy continues to use its Windows 2000-based OS (“Windows for Warfare”) on all its latest warships – including the Ford class aircraft carriers.
(3) A computer OS does not wear out like a mechanical component in a car. The reason Microsoft continually updates Windows is for purely commercial reasons. They try to persuade customers to pay for an upgrade by attempting to increase usability and security – with varying degrees of success – Windows Vista was a dog and Windows 7 had a host of critics.

AJR37

1) I didn’t say eliminate, I said cheaper and better. Open source does mean that vulnerabilities are fine and patched, compared to an OS that finds weaknesses through open exploits. If one OS has a thousand weaknesses and they are not being addressed, and another has a thousand weaknesses and they are being fixed, which is the more secure system?
2) Yes, if you add a load of code to a vulnerable OS you still have the vulnerabilities of the original, plus the massive cost of trying to unravel all the additional complexity of the added code. That said, what is the cost against updating against cost of a major system being vulnerable during a war? Do you suggest that saving money and putting lives at risk is ok?
3) This is pure conspiracy, similar to the belief that defence contracts cost so much due to defence manufacturers and ministries being in cahoots! You state “attempting to increase security” as a bad thing and just for commercial interest. Quite simply, you seem to suggest that vulnerabilities are made by Microsoft, but that code delivered by defence firms is immune to weakness. Seriously?
The point is, in my view, that China is more likely to seek a cyber or non-conventional attack against carriers first, yet the cost of reducing that risk (measured in thousands) is not worth paying, but billions on the actual ship is money well spent. If it’s that crucial to our military, we should protect it from ALL threats, not just those from thirty years ago.

AJR37

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
How hackers are targeting the shipping industry – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40685821

Games Up

This does not surprise me, saddly!!

Ian

Agreed. Even with all the caveats quoted I am sure most people whatever their political leanings or none will be pleased and proud.

Thostids

As any self-respecting sub-mariner will tell you, as have the Russians, the QE class are just convenient, large targets. And as for having planes to fly off it, the F35Bs the MoD are buying aren’t even suitable for sea duty. As for the F35C, there are hints it won’t even be built.

Chris P

Shock, horror: the UK has just launched a warship that can be sunk! If you have found someone, somewhere who is building unsinkable warships, do please let us all know about it. In the meantime, we will just have to settle for a hugely capable, hugely innovative vessel which – as part of a carrier task force and with its anti-submarine helicopters on board – will be very well protected from attack by land, sea or air.

Chris P

“the F35Bs the MoD are buying aren’t even suitable for sea duty” – evidence, please? “As for the F35C, there are hints it won’t even be built” – since the UK won’t be buying any, what’s the relevance of this? However, I couldn’t resist posting this link to a video of US Navy pilots conducting sea training on the aircraft that “won’t even be built”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BQYZgSBInw

Left hand down a bit

Ask the USMC they’re happy with the F35B and are preparing to operate from the America class assault carriers, don’t forget the Royal Navy and US marines were the principle customers for the F35B. If you want an unsinkable aircraft carrier look outside the window it’s called the United Kingdom with the US we defended Europe during the cold war.

The Ginge

well that just depends on who you ask. The senior Brass who authorised xxxx Squillion dollars on the project or the people who have to fly and operate them, facts as quoted extensively
1. It can not outfight an F16 or F15 with both carrying external fuel and weapons, even with the F35 carrying no external loads.
2. Its optical and laser systems are out of date, as they are inbuilt into the aircraft they can not be replaced with new pods as per Tornado and Lightning Aircraft. Effectively it has targeting equipment from 2 generations ago.
3. Engine is still having to operate at light loads because of fire risk due to Fan Blade Rubbing at high G.
4. Limited flight duration due to limited fuel load because it has to carry a massive lift fan that is useless after take off. Always the selling point of the Harrier solution of Vectored Thrust from the engine. The RN have not resolved this problem as the Max range of the F35 is 400 miles unrefuelled so the QE will have to be within 200 miles of the operation area to even get there, unless you assume the RAF will be able to fly Voyagers around willy nilly in a hostile environment to refuel F35’s, but if they can do that why to we need a supper stealth 5th Gen aircraft (its not a fighter at all that’s for sure). Unfortunately UK Plc has no Money to by V22’s with refuelling kits which the USMC will have.
5. AIS support system constantly malfunctioning. Want to worry about operating systems, AIS is a system that has to have internet connection to contact the servers at Lockheed to allow the plane to fly during anything other than Urgently Military Operations. Wonder if N Korean, Russian and Chinese Computer programmers have been working on getting access to it ? The USS America is having to carry about 30 to 40 Lockheed personnel to get around the AIS problems to this day. The RN will not getting that level of support.
The F35 is a massive upgrade over the Harrier but at $150m a pop it costs a hell of lot more, without even going in to operating costs. If the UK had kept its Harrier and Sea Harriers then the QE and PoW make a lot more sense, limited number of High End aircraft to attack well defended targets and air defence nodes followed by conventional cheap attack aircraft to provide numbers and do the heavy lifting. Unfortunately without a number of enablers such as more T26’s, T45’s, V22’s and some form of Growler capability the F35’s look pretty but will not be able to take on a pier adversary. Want to go South and take on a 2nd rate S American Country they’ll be fine, otherwise forget it.
it’s a classic example of the British thinking, buy half the kit and look great but be able to do very little actually when you get there.

Chris P

So many errors that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s take just three:
1. “It can not outfight an F16 or F15”. At Red Flag 2017 the F-35 scored a kill ratio of 15:1 against an F-16 aggressor squadron.
2. “Effectively it has targeting equipment from 2 generations ago”. The Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) which has been developed for the F35 is the world’s first sensor that combines forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and infrared search and track (IRST)
functionality. Through EOTS, pilots have access to high-resolution imagery, automatic tracking, IRST, laser designation and rangefinding, and laser spot tracking at greatly increased standoff ranges. In the IRST mode, EOTS locates and tracks multiple airborne threats at extended ranges, ensuring high lethality and survivability. The F35 EOTS system has a modular design to facilitate repairs or upgrades.
3. “Max range of the F35 is 400 miles”. The F35B has a combat RADIUS (i.e. the distance it can travel to a target with full weapons load, spend a few minutes over target, and return to base with a margin of fuel safety) of 467 nautical miles on internal fuel – that’s a total distance travelled in excess of 940 nautical miles. The “ski jump” on HMSQE and HMSPOW is expected to significantly increase that range (as “ski jumps” did for Harriers).

David Stephen

You beat me to it Chris P. Thanks.

David Stephen

Nonsense. If surface ships are just targets why is every navy still building them? They may be a large target but to engage her a sub needs to evade the screen of escorts equipped with TAS and the 9 Merlin ASW helos. Not easy. The F-35B is perfectly suitable for use at sea as it was designed to be from the beginning. The C version is already in production, in fact the first USMC squadron of Cs stands up next year.