Advancing military technology has taken on a videogame-like feel with operators controlling unmanned vehicles. But how useful can gaming hardware really be in operations? Well, the U.S. Navy thinks Xbox 360 controllers will be very useful and is using the gamepad on its newer submarines.
Specifically, the armed forces division will use Xbox 360 controllers to operate periscopes. A report on Saturday confirmed Virginia-class subs do not have the traditional up/down rotating periscope most of us are familiar with.
Instead, these newer submarines use a high-resolution camera system that connects to large screen monitors. Under previous operations, the U.S. Navy has interacted with these cameras with a helicopter style joystick.
However, the Navy believes new recruits and sailors coming from a younger generation will be more familiar with the layout of a game controller. It is believed using an Xbox 360 controlled will result in less training for newcomers.
The U.S. Navy plans to use Xbox 360 controllers to operate periscopes aboard its newer submarines.
“The Navy got together and they asked a bunch of J.O.s and junior guys, ‘What can we do to make your life better?’” said Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer. “And one of the things that came out is the controls for the scope. It’s kind of clunky in your hand; it’s real heavy.”
Affordability was also important. The United States may spend more on military than any other country, but cost effectiveness is important. With that in mind, a single Xbox 360 pad costs under $30, whereas the current mast handgrip and imaging control panel costs $38,000.
“That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine,” said Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the John Warner’s assistant navigator. “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”
The USS Colorado will be commissioned in November and will be the first Virginia-class sub to have the Xbox 360 controller as part of its integrated imaging system.