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B-2 Stealth Bomber Gets Upgrade, Joins the '90s

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the decade-late dept.

The Military 366

WmHBlair writes "Flightglobal has a report about the upgrades being made to the B-2A Stealth Bomber, which include Pentium class processors, JOVIAL code rewritten in C, and fibre channel hard drives. The Register, as usual, makes light of this event with a tongue-in-cheek news item noting that the upgrade drags Stealth Bomber IT systems into the '90s."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187341)

fist prost lolololololololololololololololl

I hate to break it to anybody (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187393)

but microprocessors that are designed to handle a nuclear EMP aren't blazing fast. But they are definitely not 90s technology.

I think the B-2 bomber will be fine unless its pilots require the extra computing power to play "punch the monkey" or the South Park Lemmiwinks game.

Bitchin' (5, Funny)

Etrias (1121031) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187395)

Can't wait to see it fire up and have the screen print out: It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Don't you mean? (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187423)

...upgrades ... include Pentium class processors ... "drags Stealth Bomber IT systems into the 90s"

89.999997612?

Re:Don't you mean? (2, Informative)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187611)

who modded that offtopic? It's clearly funny.

Re:Don't you mean? (3, Insightful)

weetabeex (1065032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188171)

Probably all those who wish to understand the joke.

I would, very much, like to. :-(

Come on, the original Pentium bug isn't offtopic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187639)

Good grief.

There's a Reason for That (5, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187431)

While the headline might be good for a light giggle, there's a good reason why it's 10 years behind. Airplane avionics systems must be free of bugs, or people die. That especially goes for a plane that uses a flying wing design (which are historically hard to stabilize without computer control), and potentially carries nuclear warheads.

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

Etrias (1121031) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187551)

Gah. Spoilsport.

Re:There's a Reason for That (5, Insightful)

tzhuge (1031302) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187563)

In this case...

avionics systems must be free of bugs, or people don't die.

Re:There's a Reason for That (5, Insightful)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187973)

... or the wrong people die.

Re:There's a Reason for That (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188307)

... or not enough people die.

Re:There's a Reason for That (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188023)

What exactly is your point?

The US Air Force, like the rest of the US military, is under the control of the civilian government of the US. Presumably, if a B2 has been tasked with blowing up some stuff, it is in accordance with the orders coming down from above. So, you would prefer the B2 to crash and kill the Air Force guys on board so it can't finish its mission? If so, why? If not, why your comment?

Perhaps you just wanted to make a random clever witticism? If so, oh wow you are so clever, I've never seen that joke before, well done you.

Re:There's a Reason for That (5, Informative)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188177)

No, the GP is correct. As Patton once said (paraphrasing), "the point is not for you to die for your country, but the make the other poor bastard die for his."

Re:There's a Reason for That (-1, Troll)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188127)

Nonsense! Terrorists and civilians aren't people!

Re:There's a Reason for That (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188305)

You must remember that weapons are not supposed to kill just anyone, just the people you want dead. An important distinction.

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

WolverineOfLove (1305907) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187565)

Funny, while the pilots ejected, it looks like there were already some errors in the code [youtube.com] .

Re:There's a Reason for That (3, Informative)

NETHED (258016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187831)

The version I heard was that there was water in a sensor that fooled the avionics computer.

Where I got the info
http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/06/video-stealth-b.html [wired.com]

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188115)

It seems pretty crazy to bring down a $2 billion aircraft because a single sensor was fouled. What happened to cross checking and redundancy? Free of errors it may be, but it's certainly not as resilient as I would expect.

Re:There's a Reason for That (2, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188377)

It got into 3 of 24 sensors.

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187575)

Not only that, though that's the main reason - The important parts are the sensors and the software. So long as the rest of the system works within spec it doesn't matter.

Re:There's a Reason for That (3, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187591)

"Ultimate reliability" and "Pentium class from the 90s" just doesn't really go well together.

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187651)

Yeah..because they haven't had 10 years to fix any bugs in the designs.

Re:There's a Reason for That (2, Funny)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187913)

Fix it? The parts were bought from random people on craigslist ;)

Re:There's a Reason for That (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187907)

"pentium class", not pentium. It's actually an ARM processor (better tolerance to heat, radiation, environmental extremes, etc).

Re:There's a Reason for That (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187635)

More than that. Aircraft, especially military aircraft that fly at the altitudes the B2 does, also require "hardened" electronics, capable of handling much larger temperature ranges and higher electro-magnetic interference. That means the processors, while they may be Pentium class, are not Pentium's. They may even use ceramics for the ICs, but either way the new electronics would require a much larger feature size, and therefore less performance than the current cutting edge electronics.

Re:There's a Reason for That (3, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187749)

Exactly, you beat me to the punch. The same is true in spacecraft components, which is why the computing power and other parts always seem to be so pitiful compared to current technology. (Well, plus the lag between design and actual appearance in space.) Sad, but it's most likely the best way. It's not quite as clear that the military should be quite as far behind as NASA, though.

Re:There's a Reason for That (2, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187781)

I do believe they have some other exotic things, like Sapphire coatings for additional EMP protection. Stuff that is crazy-expensive!

Re:There's a Reason for That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187641)

Isn't it kind of "raison d'Ãtre" for bomber to make people die? :)

Free of BUGS? (1)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187675)

That's not likely in C.

C plane fly.

C * pointer to freed structure.

C plane drop nukes.

C plane crash.

C plane die.

C pilots die.

C nuke detonate.

C city die.

C retaliation strike fly.

C missiles fly.

C missiles detonate.

C human species - not so wise - die.

C earth reborn anew without humans.

C rise of dolphins.

C rise of dolphin archeologists.

C dolphins discover C.

C repeat above, pick next species...

Re:Free of BUGS? (1)

WGR (32993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188027)

I could see converting the code to Ada, which is designed for reliability and safety. But to C, which is a language designed for efficiency, not correctness?

That is going backwards from Jovial, which at least is simple enough to make it easier to write code that is less likely to crash.

Re:Free of BUGS? (4, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188235)

Are you sure? Software tends to be written by developers, and its the quality of them, their ability to work to quality standards and basically take their time to get it done right that matters. All that C code you've seen crash - it'll be because someone hacked it together, no-one tested it thoroughly enough, and no-one took the time to do it right. C is even easy to code reliably if you impose some restrictions on yourself (or use some libraries/routines that you can't easily take shortcuts with - eg if you can pass a pointer to a routine, you're going to pass a bad one one day, do some wrong arithmentic on it, etc. If you pass a strict fixed-size buffer, then you're much less likely to get an error. Just a simple example).

The point is you can write bad software in any language, the new C# stuff at work crashes all over the place and is slow. The old C code from 1984 is still working fine. Its not these languages that had anything to do with their relative quality.

eg. Spacecraft are written in C [oreilly.com] , and they've worked better than anyone expected:

The only reason I brought that up is because one of my editors said, Oh look, they have Java on this thing.

Oh, Java. Well, we have Java in the ground system not onboard the spacecraft.

Right. That's what it's starting to sound like.

That's right. Yeah. The spacecraft software is entirely in C.

C? Really? That surprises me a little bit.

Yes. It's entirely in C.

I thought Lockheed Martin was a big ADA shop for this sort of thing.

ADA is used largely in military applications, but JPL at any rate has moved away from ADA. Cassini, I believe, would be the last JPL mission that used ADA. And that was largely due to the success of the Mars Pathfinder in the mid-nineties. And as I said, these missions are to a large extent all derived from Mars Pathfinder.

After that successful mission, you say, Hey, we could do it in C now. That's not as scary as everybody thought?

Yeah. Right.

Re:Free of BUGS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188117)

See also: ISBN 0060892994

Re:There's a Reason for That (1, Informative)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187755)

Not just avionics. Ive worked on SCADA and other mission critical systems(fire control and stuff like that). And people outside those industries are always harping on about how "backward" it all seems. If I had a penny for every dopey half wit manager type asked me why we didnt just upgrade everything(usually to Windows... windows 3.1/95 no less) Id have £56.34. Fine. If the 95 box freezes and knocks out the fire alarms reporting and evac alarms then I hope you all burn :)

Re:There's a Reason for That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187777)

10 years behind... err what exactly, or is the B-2 actually far ahead of other combat aircraft?
I'd like to see how many decades this is more advanced than say, the MiG-21, the most produced jet aircraft made. How many decades behind are Russia's strategic bombers?

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187947)

Right and that explains the crashes....the system was not free of bugs. Which also explains why they used a programming language called JOVIAL. Nice jobs Northrop. I guess they expected the Bomber to be retire long before the language became obsolete!

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188183)

Right and that explains the crashes....the system was not free of bugs.

Was it the system, or the sensor? The article points to the sensor, and like most systems, GIGO... [wikipedia.org]

Re:There's a Reason for That (1)

shicaca (899698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188093)

What's a BSOD between friends?

Re:There's a Reason for That (1, Insightful)

trb (8509) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188241)

Airplane avionics systems must be free of bugs, or people die.

While I agree that the the avionics system must be safe, your statement implies that these military avionics systems are old, well-worn, and safe. But the article quoted (from The Register) notes:

A recent B-2 crash shortly after takeoff at the Pacific island of Guam was caused by a false sensor data feed into the OFP, resulting from an airspeed measuring device being affected by tropical moisture.

So moist sensors can crash a $2 billion B-2, but upgrading a 1MHz 25kB processor is too risky. I think you need to base your risk assessment on facts and statistics, rather than on black and white statements like old time-tested systems are safer than newer ones. It's possible that a newer system would have safety advantages from more modern language technology, like more type-safe, better error checking and handling, faster control loops, harder real-time, better simulation tools, etc.

I am aware that conservative groups like military ones are often more comfortable with "the devil they know," but they might not always be right.

The mandatory comment (0, Offtopic)

MaulerOfEmotards (1284566) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187443)

Is that enough to run Linux on?

Re:The mandatory comment (2, Insightful)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187505)

Well, considering they can get Linux to run on a toaster [defcon.org] , you'd think that would be a no-brainer...

Better functionally quaint than gee-whiz and oops (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187451)

As was recently discussed about the current Mars lander mission, it's really just fine if something built to do a very specific job doesn't have support for this week's gamer-friendly video board, a hacked Wii controller, bluetooth, and a dozen USB ports. Hardened, reliable hardware and bug-free seems better than, say, some of the misadventures [www.cbc.ca] that some IT-intensive commercial aircraft have suffered over the last few years. It's OK to be one notch less cool when you're flying around with large weapons.

Re:Better functionally quaint than gee-whiz and oo (2, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187513)

It's true, if some guy's carrying around a large handgun on his hip, you're less likely to comment on his mullet.

Re:Better functionally quaint than gee-whiz and oo (2, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187975)

Well, yeah, it's fine for them to be using old hardware. It seems like it's an embedded system that probably has lots of specific requirements, and they can't afford for there to be a BSOD. So it's only smart to use stuff that has been around for a long time and is known to work without any delays or bugs.

Still, it'd be awesome if you could fly one of these things with a Wiimote while rendering the the outside world with a modern game engine. I bet you're going to ask "What's wrong with the '3D graphics' of real life?" Well, the textures are nice and high-res, but dammit, there aren't enough lens flares.

Regarding that Mars lander... (3, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188029)

How are you expecting to Martians to communicate with it, if it doesn't have Bluetooth support, eh? Hadn't thought of that, had you?

Re:Regarding that Mars lander... (4, Funny)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188283)

Dude, its on Mars. Everythings infrared.

Re:Better functionally quaint than gee-whiz and oo (2, Insightful)

oneal13rru (1322741) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188055)

Just to point a small detail... flying a B2 is cooler than any computer out there. The large weapons just give you cause to giggle every time the news talks about "tensions". More serious note, all military electronic hardware feels primitive, from the GPS that belongs in an 80s sci-fi flick, to the palm pilot the size of a paperback we use to put crypto in radios, its all old. Reasons: A, beauracracy and change don't mix. B: Blowing the shit out of countries that didn't do anything to us just so we can rebuild them is kinda pricey. C: Ammo is expensive too. D: Our budget is mostly going to expanding a certain moron's oil empire. E: Usr=ID10T.

Not surprised, even if I am amused (5, Informative)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187453)

Having worked for a defense contractor (non-weapons, mind you) for 6 years, it doesn't surprise me at all that the technology for such things are at least 10 years behind state of the art. It takes so long to fully satisfy the requirements of a military contract, then it takes at least as long to fix all the little bugs that inevitably pop up after delivery; then there's the military amending their requirements halfway through the project, sometimes resulting in having to go almost all the way back to square one in the design cycle. Oh, and don't even get me started on requirements that belong in cartoons and comic books, not the real world of engineering.

Re:Not surprised, even if I am amused (1)

ckthorp (1255134) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187613)

Oh, and don't even get me started on requirements that belong in cartoons and comic books, not the real world of engineering.

You make me want examples. Something to brighten up my week.

Re:Not surprised, even if I am amused (4, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187637)

Yea, at least dealing with the private sector and private contracts you don't have to worry about any of those issues.

Security by oldness (3, Insightful)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187485)

This is an interesting approach to security, use machines so old that no one can crack. Maybe that's why the Russians still use vacuum tubes in MiGs.

Re:Security by oldness (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187569)

Or, it can be used to strip things down to the bare minimum to decrease vulnerabilities. For example, is a server powerful enough to run X? Yes, but using X adds more problems and security holes. Same thing with this.

Re:Security by oldness (3, Informative)

boa (96754) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187661)

This is an interesting approach to security, use machines so old that no one can crack. Maybe that's why the Russians still use vacuum tubes in MiGs.

Maybe, or maybe they do it to protect their planes from EMP? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_bomb#Effects [wikipedia.org]

Re:Security by oldness (2, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187671)

This is an interesting approach to security, use machines so old that no one can crack. Maybe that's why the Russians still use vacuum tubes in MiGs.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every cracking problem looks like a vacuum tube.

Re:Security by oldness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188161)

This is an interesting approach to security, use machines so old that no one can crack. Maybe that's why the Russians still use vacuum tubes in MiGs.

Only if you count "toast the computer with a nulcear EMP" as cracking. Vacuum tubes are much less vulnerable to this then transistors.

Favourite quote from El 'Reg: (4, Interesting)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187487)

Naturally the stealth bomber's software has to be rewritten for the new platform, in particular the operational flight program (OFP) - the app which lets the ungainly plane fly, rather than lurching out of control as it would without constant computer assistance. (A recent B-2 crash shortly after takeoff at the Pacific island of Guam was caused by a false sensor data feed into the OFP, resulting from an airspeed measuring device being affected by tropical moisture. The duff data fooled the OFP app into wrecking the $2bn bomber - while the pilots were unable to do anything to stop it.)

Brilliant!

Re:Favourite quote from El 'Reg: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187625)

They won't be so smug when a B-2 flies over to England and bombs the shit out of their offices. El-Reg 'Smug HQ' will soon be no-more.

It's all part of George W. Bush's 'War on Smugness'. Mac users are next on the chopping block: Steve Jobs has already been arrested and is being anally violated with an iPod in Guantanamo Bay.

Re:Favourite quote from El 'Reg: (1)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187923)

And the pilots that run the USAF stil can't get behind the UAV revolution. The meat becomes a fragile, expensive, heavy, low range liability in combat. I worry about a sky filled with cheap UAVs expediting a taiwan strait crossing and leap frogging a meat boat USAF in technology. On a more positive note I hope the US army keeps its own UAV group.

cue the fpu jokes (1)

grocer (718489) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187489)

Anyone have an over/under on how many Pentium FPU jokes there will be? Although I would think they would be smart enough to write the code around that particular bug causing a fatal error in the flight control computer.

More seriously, any large, complicated project is straddled with technology it's designed with to some extent, especially something that has lead times measured in years or decades, like warplanes. I would think that the B-2 is now not far from being equal to any other modern plane in avonics.

Re:cue the fpu jokes (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188083)

You...do know that they fixed the FPU bug in later releases, right? "That particular bug" is no more.

element of surprise (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187503)

imagine that in the future the enemy (whoever thinks they are the enemy and the others, who are not even aware that they maybe the enemy) will never know when they will get their shit kicked out of them due to a possible Pentium FDIV error [wikipedia.org] or a buffer overflow of some sort. [wikipedia.org] Let's just hope that any security bugs will be dealt with promptly, cause if they can hack into a computer because of some CPU errors by using java or javascript through a browser [slashdot.org] , the will certainly be looking for a way to control some [wikipedia.org] more [wikipedia.org] exciting [wikipedia.org] equipment [wikipedia.org] .

Re:element of surprise (3, Insightful)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188301)

Yes, because B-2 pilots surf random links posted on message boards mid flight all the time.

maybe they should have stayed in the '60s (5, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187509)

I'm not sure that replacing JOVIAL code with C code is actually progress. If JOVIAL is anything like ALGOL 60, it's arguably a better programming language than C.

Re:maybe they should have stayed in the '60s (5, Funny)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188069)

If JOVIAL is anything like ALGOL 60, it's arguably a better programming language than C.

It's HAPPIER.

It's High Time (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187511)

To Drag our weapons kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruit Bat.

90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (4, Insightful)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187515)

What this article seems to overlook is that they DONT WANT new computers and new operating systems, new languages. They want older, stable, rpedictable, thoroughly vetted technologies.

They dont need a super computer to fly these, but what they do need os to know every quirk, every instability, and already have dealt with it so that NOTHING even remotely suprises them.

Thats why moving to C is a big step.

it may seem silly to us because we run all sorts of new stuff on our computers designed to run many things we may never use; These are VERY purpose built, need very little flexibility outside its designated purpose, and doesnt need to be overdone.

I may buy a PC system anticipating programs down the road that might be expanded, but for an aircraft, missiles, sattelites, even the space shuttle which runs EVRY old code, they just need it to do exactly what it needs too, and if that works fine with 256k, then thats what it will get, as long as its stable as all hell.

Re:90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187665)

You left out that the Pentiums are probably radiation hardened as well.

Re:90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (5, Interesting)

DontBlameCanada (1325547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187807)

I've worked on military CPU replacement in the past for a subcontractor. We were upgrading an early 60s avionics set built from, get this, AND, OR and NOR gates. The most complex part was a 4 bit shift register - pretty wild. So I know a bit about this.

The major problem with using components newer than the mid-90s is that they are so sensitive to radiation. Not EM, but Alpha particles and other cosmic rays. Its prohibitively expensive to rad-harden (radiation harden) sub-100nm chips and when that is achieved the yields are so low that the cost balloons even more. Radiation hits my cause the rare BSOD for you, on a nuclear armed aircraft its may show up as a MCOD - mushroom cloud of destruction.

Re:90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187839)

I wrote JOVIAL for 5 years, yes it's an old language, but it did have some quite neat features for accessing data really fast (memory overlays for example). NAS (National Airspace System) is written in JOVIAL and it does its job well enough. It's a good langauge for small memory footprints and usually all variables are global. I can't see what they are winning really rewriting it in C apart from introducing new bugs. There are JOVIAL to C preprocessors out there but they tend to produce sucky non maintainable code of course.

http://www.jovial.hill.af.mil/ [af.mil]

Re:90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187917)

They dont need a super computer to fly these

A B-2? Actually those do, at least by 90s standards. Remember that Apple's G4 had export restrictions when it came out in '99.

But yes indeed you're essentially correct. Stuff has to be tested to the nuts, though not just military. Anybody have a good link to a Jane's style summary of what's normal for aviation computers these days? Nothing in the airlines is as computer dependent as the unstable flying wings, but it'll give us a baseline to compare.

Re:90's IS cutting edge for that stuff. (1)

ady1 (873490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188351)

They want older, stable, rpedictable, thoroughly vetted technologies... but what they do need os to know every quirk, every... do exactly what it needs too, and if that works fine

You do know that the pentium in your bomber is not to be used for posting on slashdot, right?

Yes but......... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187529)

It's the embedded ME OS that keeps it cutting edge.

what's next? (1)

Speedracer1870 (1041248) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187557)

Great! Now if they could only drag the drone planes and tanks out of the 70's they'll be getting somewhere...

So what? (4, Insightful)

JesseL (107722) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187573)

That just means their development & testing cycle runs about 15 years. That doesn't seem terribly unreasonable given that reliability is paramount for a billion dollar piece of equipment.

I work on brand new industrial controls that are still using Z80 processors.

Pentiums are well suited to a stealth craft (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187601)

Pentium 4 chips and Athlons just get shot out of the sky by heat seeking missiles.

Your Federal Tax Dollars At Work: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187607)

Fight BushCo's private wars.

Cordially,
Filipino Monkey.

space shuttle runs on 1970s computers (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187647)

With one MEGABYTE of ferris-core memory. Five redundant computers. The shuttle prgram was late getting started and they didnt want to changes the software.

"And they made fun of vacuum tube computers in MIGs."

Re:space shuttle runs on 1970s computers (1)

VAXcat (674775) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187893)

Ferris core? Is the memory arranged in a big wheel, where the bytes ride up and down in little swinging seats? Or, maybe you meant ferrite core...

Re:space shuttle runs on 1970s computers (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187927)

With one MEGABYTE of ferris-core memory.

Bueller?... Bueller?

JOVIAL code rewritten in C? (1)

andyh-rayleigh (512868) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187717)

I though ADA was the mandated language for such applications? C seems far too insecure a language to replace the rigour of what is essentially a dialect of Algol.

Not so stealthy? (1, Interesting)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187721)

I might be mistaken but I think I read in a book about designing warships that the F-117A and the B-2 could be detected and targeted by British frigates during the first Gulf War. They are only stealthy against outdated Russian-made radars that the Iraqis had.

Probably not x86 (4, Informative)

Henriok (6762) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187723)

It's "Pentium class", not "Pentium". I would bet my money on this comptuer being PowerPC based, probably PowerPC 74xx based, also known as "G4" of Macintosh fame. There are _a_lot_ of PowerPC based avionics, and cutting edge airplanes like Eurofighter, Gripen and F-22 have multiple PowerPC based systems doing all kinds of stuff. When doing embedded electronics for the military you are not going far pitching Intel stuff. You are going to use hardware from manufacturers that can guarantee parts that'll keep being manufactured over many years and are harndened to endure rapid heat, cold, moist and preassure fluctuations. Intel are doing commodity products for low end table environments. Look to manufacturers like Freescale for the stable and durable stuff.

moD .up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24187769)

is dying.ThCings

Exactly right. It's obsolete (5, Funny)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187801)

They should have written all the flight control in Ruby & made it an AJAX web application that runs on Firefox on an iPhone. That would make it zillions of times faster than that old C code & Pentiums, right?

Am I the only one concerned about this? (0, Redundant)

kannibul (534777) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187813)

Seems there was a whole slew of Pentium processors back in the day that had issues calculating numbers.

So what? (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187817)

The demands of military grade computing are VERY different from the demands of your typical desktop/server.

Forget the tasks they're doing - those are essentially the same as you or I just for a different problem domain. The real issues are: thermal, power, 'ruggedness', tempest, EMP protection, parts being available for years (or decades by preference).

This isn't really news...

Still no official word about B-2's use of anti-g (1, Interesting)

mTor (18585) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187835)

The most interesting thing about B-2 is that it purportedly uses electrogravitics and that it also charges its leading sections of wings to reduce the drag.

Here's what Bill Gunston, one of the most respected aviation journalists has to say on the topic (his bio is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gunston [wikipedia.org] )

I have numerous documents, all published openly in the United States, which purport to explain how the B-2 is even stranger - far stranger - than it appears. Most are articles published in commercial magazines, some are openly published US Patents, while a few are open USAF publications by Wright Aeronautical Laboratory and Air Force Systems Command's Astronautics Laboratory. They deal with such topics as electric-field propulsion, and electrogravitics (or anti-gravity), the transient alteration of not only thrust but also a body's weight. Sci-Fi has nothing on this stuff.

The literature goes back to Faraday, but the idea of electrogravitics really took off in the 1920s when an American physicist, Townsend T. Brown, carried out extensive experiments. He may have been the first to recognize that a capacitor (a dielectric material sandwiched between positive and negative plates) experiences a force tending to move it in the direction of the positive face. He found that the electrostatic charge induced a gravity field between the two plates. Soon he was making capacitors rotate on whirling arms, and measuring the loss in weight of capacitors with the positive face turned uppermost.

In 1953, Brown demonstrated to the USAF a whirling rig of 50ft (15.2m) diameter, which at 150,000 volts (150kV) became a mere blur. The subject was immediately classified, and for the next 40 years, while 'black' research in this field made astonishing progress, it was not reported. Though private individuals continued to experiment, and to take out unclassified patents, not much surfaced. Exceptions were Electrogravitics Systems (February 1956) and The Gravitics Situation (December 1956), published for subscribers only by Aviation Studies (International). This was a London-based 'think tank' run by two very bright young men: R G 'Dicky' Worcester and John Longhurst. Unlike the established journals, they published reports and informed comment without the slightest regard for questions of 'security'. The only time they were taken to court, they won their case and collected heavy damages.

More here: http://engines.fighter-planes.com/jet_engine.htm [fighter-planes.com]

Re:Still no official word about B-2's use of anti- (2, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188179)

Riight, a revolution in physics and technology that would rival quantum mechanics and the USAF is sitting on it and using it to mildly enhance a score of strategic bombers.

Tell me another one!

Pentium's are Nuclear Hardened (2, Informative)

Christopher_G_Lewis (260977) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187873)

Well, given this http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/LN12-18-98/intel_story.htm [sandia.gov] was in 1998, and about 10 years of development and testing, I guess we're finally seeing CPU's on the B2's that will actually allow them to fly through some of the massive radiation/electrical crap that they would be generating.

It's not really from the 90's (3, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187897)

Those of you who have read some about Intel's coming Larrabee GPU know that it consists of many Pentium cores. The thing is, these cores aren't as old as one may think.

When the Pentium core became obsolete, Intel gave the technology to the U.S. military, which in turn developed it further and added bug fixes. So it's not really technology from the 90's only, because it has been in development for quite some time.

Additionally, old technology has the advantage of being used so much that virtually everything is known about the chip, including bugs. Therefore, it is much safer to work with such a chip rather than going for the latest Core 2 Duo.

Still Stuck in the 1980s (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24187929)

The Stealth Bomber's mission is to deliver nuke bombs inside Soviet territory. It's not really that good at anything else. Though it does get used for other missions, since the US needs to justify spending $2.2 BILLION on each one.

Upgrading the B2 to the 1990s is just keeping a 1980s corporate welfare programme for another decade, even while letting it float a decade behind in technology. I guess someone's got to buy all those old Pentiums, or Intel might go out of business.

mod parent up (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188231)

Thats a fair assesment of how we keep pulling technology along when our government is in charge of the purse-strings.

Re:Still Stuck in the 1980s (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188261)

They're quite good at accurately dropping lots (up to 80) of little (mk-82 500lb) bombs too. Can even drop them one at a time, so you could hit 80 targets in one run. I'd say that's fairly good at other missions, though it obviously requires good people on the ground to direct where to hit.

I wonder (1)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188163)

I wonder if they also included some of those $500 Cat 5 cables? This being a Government project I'd venture to guess; Yes!

Anyone else disappointed about no doom stat? (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188227)

They could have updated the stat on how many times the US could destroy the world with this B-2 upgrade, but it is strangely absent. How sad.

Imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24188327)

Imagine a Beowulf hanger of those.

well it's not as if they want Vista on it (4, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188375)

You wish to drop the bomb: Cancel or Allow?

Why run everything on a single procesor? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24188413)

It's not like using multiple chips represents a substantial saving, even when you're looking at military spec.

And these things are not immune from crashes. They just rely on extremely low downtime so it doesn't matter. Would have thought that resetting every system could still be an inconvenience.
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