German Navy to replace aging 8-inch floppy drives with an emulated solution for its anti-submarine frigates

by Pelican Press
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German Navy to replace aging 8-inch floppy drives with an emulated solution for its anti-submarine frigates

The German Navy is searching for a new storage system to replace the aging 8-inch (20cm) floppy disks which are vital to the running of its Brandenburg class F123 frigates. According to an official tender document, the ideal answer to the German Navy’s problems would be a drop-in floppy disk replacement based upon a storage emulation system, reports

Germany’s Brandenburg class F123 frigates were commissioned in the mid 1990s, so it is understandable that floppy disks were seen as a handy removable storage medium. These drives are part of the frigates’ data acquisition system and, thus “central to controlling basic ship functions such as propulsion and power generation,” according to the source report.

The F123s are specialized in submarine hunting, and they are also being upgraded in terms of the weapon systems and weapon control systems. Swedish company Saab is the general contractor for the F123 modernizations.

It won’t be trivial to replace three decades old computer hardware seamlessly, while retaining the full functionality of the existing floppies. However, we note that other companies have wrestled similar problems in recent years. Moreover, there are plenty of emulator enthusiasts using technologies for floppy emulation solutions like Gotek drives which can emulate a variety of floppy drive standards and formats. There are other workable solutions already out there, but it all depends on who the German Navy chooses to deliver the project.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In April we reported on the floppy disk-reliant San Francisco train control system and efforts to modernize. We discussed similar ancient tech issues affecting a German rail computer system recently, too.

For another military example, the U.S. Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS, also relied upon the 8-inch floppy disk until 2019, when the system was transitioned to solid-state storage solutions. This large IBM Diskette 1 floppy disk media became an industry standard offering storage for up to 242,944 bytes, but later 8-inchers could store up to 1.2MB.

The Japanese government probably has the highest-profile floppy disk eradication program, though. Earlier this month its Digital Minister, Taro Kono, celebrated the demise of the floppy disk which was previously an essential part of various official regulatory filings. The big deal was the final scrapping of the remaining 1,034 regulations that required the filing of floppy disks.

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