Sandia LabNews

Modernized system to manage codes for nation's nuclear weapons complete

An ambitious Sandia-led program to fully update the code management system that supports control over use of the nation’s nuclear weapons has completed a major milestone.

The Code Management Systems (CMS) project completed a multiyear, full-scale engineering effort at Sandia with its first full system delivery of all hardware and software to two Department of Defense customers. On Nov. 30 the system became operational for the first time for weapons in Europe.

Code management systems and ancillary equipment are in place at headquarters command sites and at various bases in the field. They are used in conjunction with Sandia-designed permissive action links, or PALs, inside US nuclear weapons to recode, unlock, lock, and manage the weapons, while ensuring the secrecy and authenticity of command-and-control messages.

The systems allow those having custody of weapons with PAL systems to plan, store, change, interrogate, track, use, or otherwise manage all necessary code-related information. This is a critical part of ensuring that weapons can be used when authorized and cannot be used when not properly authorized.

The Code Management System coupled with the B61 ALT 339 retrofit enables the recoding of nuclear weapons in a fully encrypted manner. This new class of code management equipment designed by Sandia greatly simplifies use and logistics for personnel. It replaces a variety of different vintages of code-management equipment that had been produced and put into place at different times and for different weapon systems and users over the decades.

The new hardware and software has been redesigned from scratch in a systems approach intended to provide a common architecture, modular products, and reusable processes to facilitate future upgrades. Now that it is operational with USEUCOM (US European Command) and USAFE (US Air Forces in Europe), the CMS becomes the common foundation for all future upgrades of PAL system hardware and software.

A huge team effort

"To design and develop a system with an overall architecture to replace everything in the field was quite a challenge," says Doug Clark, CMS project lead engineer in Use Control Systems Dept. 2121. "We wanted to develop a system that was modular in nature, so that it could be maintained and upgraded in pieces as needed in the future. It was a huge team effort."

Fourteen custom products (nine software and five hardware products) were delivered, accepted by DOE/NNSA, and put into operation in Europe in November. All were designed at Sandia, and in addition all the software was implemented and produced at Sandia. The custom hardware was manufactured at NNSA’s Kansas City Plant.

The software contains about 160,000 lines of uncommented computer source code (260,000 including comments). About 570 documents and drawings were prepared in support of the requirements, development, production, and qualification of all CMS products.

The project started at Sandia in 1995 at a low level of effort, but became focused on its current development strategy in 1997. The use-control community realized that code management and PAL system equipment for recoding and managing nuclear weapons developed over 30 to 40 years was becoming difficult to maintain and depended upon a frustrating variety of different vintages of equipment.

"This culminates eight years of work in both code management and the B61 program that had to come together at the end of November," says Doug Mangum, Manager of Dept. 2121. "It all came together and worked as expected," he says.

The 14 products that make up the new CMS include a cryptographic processor (which was completed and delivered in Europe first, in 1997, to address some Y2K concerns), its software, host processor software, field processor software, file transfer software, a communication module, that module’s software, a power module, an interface adapter, a field tester, a field training simulator, field training material, headquarters training material, and system operation definitions.

A kit the size of a small suitcase

The field hardware all fits in a kit the size of a small suitcase. Software and hardware products to support fifty of the kits have been delivered from Sandia and the Kansas City Plant.

The cryptographic processor, which contains three cryptographic chips and can support any current nuclear command and control cryptographic system, looks something like a large, sturdy, all-metal laptop computer and is, says Doug Mangum, "secure and trusted." He says the CMS system will support the use-control community’s "end-to-end encryption requirement for crypto-capable weapons," in which PAL data are never exposed in the process of doing PAL recodes.

The Sandia CMS team will next focus on replacing the remaining code management equipment for all US military and NNSA users by the end of 2003 or early 2004.

At that point all the main objectives of the project will be complete. The nation will have new, modernized use-control code management capabilities and equipment providing greater flexibility and speed. The capabilities will incorporate advanced principles of nuclear surety (integrated anti-tamper features, enhanced use of encryption and no-knowledge systems, and improved equipment safety). And maintenance and logistic burdens will be eased, with personnel training and operation simplified.