The Navy sails through Y2K exercise at sea

The Navy sails through Y2K exercise at sea

Radioman 2nd Class Adam Edwards

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

The USS John F. Kennedy battle group this month set forward the clocks of all computers used for aircraft, weapons, command and control, and administrative LANs.

It was the first time the Navy has 'flexed the entire system,' said Capt. Bob Whitkop, year 2000 coordinator for the Atlantic Fleet.

The five-day Kennedy exercise off Puerto Rico followed a spring rollover by the Pacific Fleet [GCN, April 26, Page 49]. Testing will resume in the Pacific this summer and end with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower battle group in the Atlantic this fall.

Several anomalies cropped up among the Kennedy's 51 systems, such as input logs not rolling over and dates printing wrong, but no mission-critical systems malfunctioned, said Cmdr. Dave Simpson, the aircraft carrier's combat systems officer.

Simpson said the testing for the first time involved shipboard LANs at three security levels'top-secret, secret and unclassified'with all their associated servers, hubs, routers and clients. Some e-mail messages sent out during the eight-hour period when clocks were being advanced did not arrive, but the mail systems functioned afterward.

The Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Norfolk, Va., also rolled over its wire traffic systems to potentially troublesome dates during the exercise.

'We tested five types of systems'communications, logistics, operational and administrative LANs, and combat support systems,' said Cmdr. Howie Lind, chief information officer and year 2000 coordinator at the Naval Surface Force Atlantic in Norfolk. 'Most Navy mission-critical systems are not year 2000-vulnerable. The mission support systems are a lot more vulnerable.'

The list of suspects

Under scrutiny were Compaq Computer Corp. servers and others running Hewlett-Packard HP-UX and SunSoft Solaris; LAN hubs and switches from Cabletron Systems Inc. of Rochester, N.H., Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and Xylan Corp. of Calabasas, Calif.; and commercial software including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Windows NT, Exchange Server and Outlook.

Lind said the tests consisted of backing up all the systems and then setting their clocks ahead to five separate, critical dates: Sept. 9, when some database fields will register 9999; the fiscal year's end; Jan. 1; Feb. 29; and the 366-day year in 2000. Afterward, all systems were reverted to the correct date and their data was restored. The crew will continue to monitor restored databases for possible corruption.

Repeatedly resetting all the clocks took the combined efforts of about 300 sailors plus 128 civilian employees and contractors, including subject-matter experts.

Fiber-optic cables connect classified

and unclassified Ethernets to a hub on

the USS John F. Kennedy.

The multiple changes were complicated by the fact that some of the systems were operating on Greenwich Mean Time, whereas unclassified systems kept the local time in the Atlantic. 'The tactical systems always operate on GMT so we don't have to change when we span time zones,' Simpson said.

Among the more than 200 battle group systems tested were combat directional and radar systems, missile targeting, tactical aircraft control and ship's guns.

Although the Navy has fallen behind the schedule it set for itself to complete congressionally mandated double testing of each critical system, the officials said they expect little trouble next year. The status of contingency plans for 692 critical systems ranging from weapons and recruitment to weather forecasting appears on the Web at

Lind said the Navy has tested its critical systems ashore, 'but you can't rely on ashore tests. Every ship is different. You've got to test at sea with other ships.'

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.