Trident missiles, failed upgrades and OEM interference

A missile veering off course

Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017

When a nuclear missile test fails, you can expect the incident to become headline news. So when a British Trident test resulted in an (unarmed) missile veering off course towards the US mainland, the media were all over the story.

The good news is that no one was injured, nor has the incident become a diplomatic problem. But there are serious questions being asked about how an expensive, deadly missile came to fail so spectacularly.

An upgrade-related problem?

The British Ministry of Defence is tight-lipped about what happened and potential causes, but analysts have presented several scenarios. The submarine responsible for firing the missile – HMS Vengeance – had recently undergone a £350 million renovation, including upgrades on the ship’s IT systems.

Whether these upgrades caused problems with the missile guidance system remains unclear – but it does go to underscore why CTOs often resist upgrades. If the system works in its current state, why replace it?

When your OEM defines your infrastructure

As the UK’s first line of defence, it is vital that their nuclear fleet continues to operate optimally. But if the existing IT systems have delivered reliably since their inception in the 1990s, the operational justification for updates is questionable.

In defence and business, a reliable, stable IT infrastructure is vital. Which is why CTOs spend months and years bedding in systems and maintaining existing a bedrock from which their company can build and extend. Every upgrade – software or hardware – threatens that stability. Replacing hardware based on the OEM’s upgrade cycle can have serious consequences for operations.

In the case of the Trident, systems upgrades are provided by the OEM – Lockheed Martin. Which means that the Royal Navy can define the time windows for maintenance, but that their OEM typically pushes software upgrades which may have been the cause of the missile failure.

For businesses, the only way to guarantee ongoing stability is to retain your existing platforms – even beyond their warranty period. Fortunately you can rely on CDS to provide the maintenance and support you need to keep your production systems up-and-running while you prepare for the next iteration that will help drive your business forward.

Ready to learn more? Drop us a line.