US Navy To Use Xbox controllers To Control Submarines

Isaac Cain
September 20, 2017

By replacing the joystick control with an Xbox 360 controller, the Navy's new submarine has a periscope control system that's a fraction of the price of the joystick.

While most gamers may have long since made the jump to the current generation of consoles and moved on from the Xbox 360 controller, one high-profile customer is just now planning to start using controllers from the 2005 console.

As a result, Lockheed Martin experimented with other systems like multi-touch tables and Kinect, but the $30 Xbox Controller was the victor amongst sailors and the government.

Unlike the classic rotating tube periscope seen in submarine movies, hi-tech subs like the Virginia-class use digital cameras to view outside the ship. Instead information from the periscope mast is displayed on a number of screens in the control room. That seems to be the pretty cool assumption based on the fact that sailors are now using Xbox 360 controllers to perform functions aboard some vessels.

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The $30 controllers are drastically cheaper than the clunky $38,000 joystick and imaging control panel that would otherwise be used. The periscope operators themselves use a glorified joystick to control the rig.

Kyle Leonard of the feedback the Navy received about the Lockheed Martin sticks.

"That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only created to fit on a Virginia-class submarine", Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub said.

The US Navy will begin stocking all new Virginia class subs with the legacy controllers in the future, starting with the USS Colorado due to be commissioned into active service later this year.

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