Wind River Powers New Generation of Periscope on Royal Navy’s Next-Generation Astute Class Submarines

UNITED KINGDOM – April 29, 2008 – Royal Navy's new Astute-class submarines will be using Thales UK's non-hull penetrating, optronic mast. The state-of-the-art electro-optic system will allow greater flexibility in boat design and provide improved surface visibility without giving away the position of the submarine. The optronic mast will be powered by Wind River VxWorks mission-critical real-time operating system (RTOS), it was announced today. The Astute submarines will patrol the world's oceans with minimum risk of being detected by surface ships and other submarines. It will deploy a number of technologies to reduce its sonar signature; however, submarines are most vulnerable to detection when the submarine commander uses a periscope to assess the situation on the surface. The Thales state-of-the-art optronic mast minimises this risk by deploying a non-hull penetrating design, which enables the Sensor Head Unit (SHU) to be extended from the submarine fin, and rapidly perform a 360 degree scan above the surface, enabling the commander to analyse the image data afterwards, minimising risk of detection. The optronic mast will use Wind River VxWorks mission-critical real-time operating system (RTOS) running on Thales quad PowerPC AltiVec™ COTS boards and AdaCore GNAT Pro to power the stabilisation system (high-performance 3 axis to sub-pixel accuracies), video and thermal camera control, communication with the in-hull systems and control all the mechanisms and motors in the SHU. The SHU is a pressure proof, electro-optical assembly that contains high-performance cameras, optics, environmental sensors and stabilisation mechanisms. It is designed to function in temperatures ranging from -15° to +60°c and withstand a nearby explosion. Inside the submarine hull, the Mast Control Unit (MCU) coordinates overall system activity, controlling a number of other units and communicating with the submarine's tactical, data and combat systems. The MCU uses two processors, both also running Wind River VxWorks. It controls the mast raising equipment-raising and lowering the SHU out of the submarine fin. The MCU also controls the azimuth drive module, which rotates the SHU and forms part of the stabilisation system, requiring deterministic, high-performance servo control to compensate for the submarine's movement in the water and provide a clear image–critical to mission success. David Cookman, Systems Engineer, Thales Optronics, explains the project team's decision to choose Wind River: "Obviously a system like the Optronics Mast must be robust and highly reliable at all levels. Without it, the submarine is blind. VxWorks was chosen because it provides a high-performance, reliable environment."

Jack Cunningham, Head of Discipline (Software), Thales Optronics adds: "VxWorks has a pedigree that makes it an obvious choice for use in a high-reliability, safety-related environment. Added to this, its support for multiple platforms has allowed Thales to rationalise its use of third-party RTOSs and thereby reduce target platform variability from one project to the next. This consistency between projects, through standardisation on VxWorks, results in development cost savings." Paul Parkinson, Senior Systems Architect, Aerospace at Wind River says: "The use of Wind River technology in aerospace projects such as the Mars Rovers and the RAF Tornado GR-4 military fast jet is well known. The deployment of Thales UK's non-hull penetrating periscope on the Astute-class submarine demonstrates that our mission-critical products are used extensively in naval applications as well."

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Jessica Miller
Global Corporate Communications