The US Navy is beginning to use Xbox 360 controllers to operate the periscopes on submarines, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The first submarine to get the new controller will be the USS Colorado, which goes into active duty in November. The Xbox controllers will later be added to other Virginia-class submarines.
Virginia-class submarines are getting the Xbox controller added to their integrated imaging systems, which will replace a complex-looking, helicopter-style control stick. These submarines are less expensive and more modern versions of the Seawolf-class submarines, which were commissioned in the late 1990s.
The innovation comes as the Navy’s response to feedback given by junior officers and sailors who said that the controls for the periscope were clunky and “real heavy.” In addition to being hard to manage, the handgrip and imaging control panel used previously also cost about $38,000, compared to the Xbox 360 controller’s cost of around $20. Training time for the Xbox controller also decreased to minutes, compared to the hours it took to learn the helicopter-style joystick.
Now if the controls break, “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement,” Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub told The Virginian-Pilot. According to him, this is just the first of more familiar tech to come to the Navy, which plans to eventually add electronic touch screens to more of their interfaces one day.