Thursday, February 4, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
The crew of the USS Chosin simulated a battle with the
clock rolling over to the year 2000 in order to check the
Pacific Fleet ship for Y2K compliance.

Navy tests
warship’s systems

Results: 'The year 2000 made
no difference with our
upgraded software'

By Gregg K. Kakesako


As if worrying about the Y2K computer bug weren't enough, there are other dates this year that military computer experts are keeping a watchful eye on.

For instance, April 9 and Sept. 9 bring something called the "nines problem," according to the Pacific Fleet. April 9 is the 99th day of 1999. Sept. 9 is the ninth day of the ninth month of 1999.

The Navy says computer programmers sometimes used a string of four nines to denote an "end of process" that would shut down an application. If errors happen, it would show that the programmers' "shorthand" can produce problems and that the applications could be susceptible to date-related errors that could occur on Jan. 1, 2000.

Yesterday, the Navy tested the weapons and engineering software on one of the 13 warships berthed at Pearl Harbor and declared that it was good to go.

The Y2K problem was created by computer shorthand that assumed the first two digits of the year were 19. That means computers could read the abbreviation 00 as the year 1900, rather than 2000.

Capt. Thomas Gregory, skipper of the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin, stimulated a wartime mission and set the ship's computer clock to 26 minutes before midnight Dec. 31, 1999.

As he observed the four 42-inch video color monitors in the Chosin's combat information center, the ship's crew simulated the launch of an SM-2 surface-to-air missile and then a Tomahawk cruise missile at a land-based target.

Nine minutes before midnight, the crew sighted a hostile submarine and fired a torpedo at it. Two minutes later, it was ordered to fire one of its two 5-inch deck guns. As the date and time on the top of the video monitors marked the start of the millennium and a minute into the new year, the Chosin was ordered to fire another missile.

"The year 2000 made no difference with our upgraded software," Gregory said.

Earlier yesterday, Gregory also tested the software that controls the Chosin's four gas turbine jet engines. "The clock rolled and nothing happened," he said.

The next test for the Chosin and the Pacific Fleet will be Feb. 16 when it joins the USS Constellation battle group for a Y2K validation exercise off the coast of Southern California.

Capt. Tim Traverso said the Pacific Fleet is leading the effort in ensuring that none of its vessels or shore commands are Y2K vulnerable. Computer systems aboard ships and ashore have been inventoried, and tests of individual and integrated systems have been completed.

Traverso, the Pacific Fleet's director of the Y2K effort, said so far the Navy has found that "2 percent of its systems are Y2K vulnerable."

So far, five ships besides the Chosin have tested their weapons and engineering systems while berthed safely in a harbor, and no problems have been recorded.

Digital danger dates

There are other dates to worry about:

bullet July 1: The "six month out" date for computer calculations.

bullet July 1: The start of fiscal year 2000 for some state governments, like Hawaii.

bullet Aug. 22: When the Global Positioning System reaches the end of its built-in 20-year calendar at 12 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time.

bullet Oct. 1: The start of fiscal year 2000 for the federal government.


The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion has established a toll-free number (1-888-USA-4-Y2K, or 1-888-872-4925) to address worries about the millennium.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin