Shipbuilder Minimizes Obsolescence Risk with Network Attached Storage

Shipbuilder Minimizes Obsolescence Risk with Network Attached Storage

There are multiple reasons a submarine would need onboard storage. The fire control system alone requires storage for all stages of a mission. Prior to launch, direct-attached storage (DAS) is used to pre-load data onto a drive that can be transported and inserted into the onboard systems. A tactical storage system typically requires network storage (NAS) to load waypoints or share maps across the internal network, for example, and as a mission is being performed. Additionally, data capture is required for post-mission analysis and debrief.

A large shipbuilding company performed a trade study to determine what available DAS and/or NAS would be best suited to replace existing optical disc drives on-board a well-established fleet of submarines. At over a decade old, the aging 5.25” optical drives represented an obsolescence risk and no longer provided the capacities the ship's newer technologies required to maximize mission effectiveness. In addition to evaluating DAS and NAS, the study also evaluated the benefits of moving from optical drives to SSDs, enabling the necessary capacities.

The results of the study formed the basis of a tech insertion program that required the upgrade of all of the optical drives onboard the fleet. Due to previous experience with multiple vendors, the ship manufacturer required a single hardware system and media type to be used across multiple applications. For example, on-board a ship there were multiple optical drives, each attached to a different computer, where each computer was performing a different function. Each function then required custom development of each drive if, for example, different levels of security were required or if one required direct storage vs network. For the upgrade, the manufacturer was interested in having a single system that could be modified for each application, reducing the total cost of ownership.

Though the existing optical drives did not provide encryption, the manufacturer wanted to ensure that if in the future, encryption was required, the new system would have the facility to support it. Additionally, the shipbuilder wanted to maintain the existing write protection functionality to ensure that, especially in the case of network storage, the crew could read the data but not modify it.


The optical disc drives were in use for over a decade and in that time the discs themselves must have been changed, on average, every 2 to 5 years. SSDs, on the other hand, will last between 5 to 10 years, depending on the write cycle, so the drives will need to be replaced less frequently. Qualifying multiple SSDs from different vendors ensures that over the life of the program, a suitable SSD will always be available.

Traditionally, optical disc drives would be replaced with a rackmount hard drive solution. Significant development investment would be required to add encryption, specific to each drive as well as to configure the system to be attached to the network and/or directly attached to a computer. The DTS3 saves both time and money by eliminating the need for this custom development. With the three SSDs, the DTS3 can act as both a NAS or DAS, and adding encryption keys to each drive is as simple as adding a module, future-proofing the device for future encryption requirements.

Once the shipbuilder contacted Curtiss-Wright in things began moving quickly. The shipbuilders’ customer visited Curtiss-Wright for a live system demo which reinforced the results of the study that NAS and SSDs are the way forward to mitigate obsolescence. Shortly after, demo units were provided and an order was placed.

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