US military still using Windows XP with a floppy disk to launch missiles

The US military is still paying Microsoft to maintain the “out-of-date” Windows XP operating system, as well as use floppy disks to launch nuclear missiles.

Although the countries leading in science and technology in the world, but not always, even sometimes the USA also failed to catch up with the modern world. Even US intercontinental ballistic missile system but still using Windows XP, there is nothing left to discuss.

While the Global organizations wishing to upgrade their systems to the latest version released by Windows have an exception for the US Department of Defense, which manages the world’s largest army, which still chooses to use the Windows XP operating system and giving up on upgrading to the latest operating systems like Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Why does the US military use Windows XP?

The US military’s longstanding relationship with Windows XP is not uncommon. Many computer users and companies stuck with Windows XP long after its release in 2001 and refused to upgrade to subsequent versions of Windows.

In 2014, when Microsoft officially ended support for this old operating system, Windows XP still accounted for 30% of operating systems worldwide. At the time, US officials estimated that 3% of the Pentagon’s several million computers were still running Windows XP.

Also in 2014, a Navy official issued a directive titled “Attempts to Remove Windows XP”. It’s easy to say, but in fact, many computers of the US Department of Defense still use this old operating system.

Despite paying a lot of money, the disadvantages of Windows XP began to pile up over time. “It can be difficult for military personnel to use the older systems due to outdated or cumbersome interfaces,” said Cynthia Dion-Schwarz, senior scientist at RAND Corp and former director of cybersecurity and information systems research at the US Department of Defense.

She continued: “Even if you’re paying Microsoft to patch it, what you don’t have is the benefit of millions or billions of users discovering in real-time flaws and then Microsoft jumping in to patch that,”.

In 2014, a tour of a nuclear-armed missile silo in Wisconsin showed that the commands used to launch these missiles were still stored on… floppy drives – the storage still using decade-old 80s technology – something that is almost invisible on modern computers today.

Not to mention that floppy disks have a high risk of data corruption. It’s hard to imagine how the staff here would handle if unfortunately the missile trigger disc was damaged at “necessary”.

This 5.25 inch floppy disk is still used to... launch nuclear missiles!
This 5.25 inch floppy disk is still used to… launch nuclear missiles!

Slow changes

The US Department of Defense has recognized many of the disadvantages of the old system. So in early 2016, the Pentagon committed to the unprecedented move of upgrading computers across the organization to run on Microsoft Windows 10.

The US Army became the first major military branch to upgrade nearly 950,000 computer systems to Windows 10. It was followed by the Air Force in March 2018 and the Navy later that summer.

With this major overhaul, the US military hopes to catch up with future technology and not become a laughing stock for netizens and other militaries around the world.

But that’s only part of the story, unlike major corporations, the Pentagon is responsible for securing and updating computer systems that support military operations and directly control navigation systems, positions,s or weapons.

That’s why Microsoft can get billions of dollars from the US military to keep and secure Windows XP and can’t afford to “retire” the sickly old operating system. Who knows if, by 2030, the US government will still pay Microsoft to continue using this version or not?

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