The control panel used to operate a Virginia-class submarine’s periscope features two masts that rotate 360 degrees and high definition cameras that showcase the images picked up on large display monitors. There are a few downsides to this advanced imaging system though; the controls are awkward to use, they require hours of training to use properly, and they are extremely expensive. But the United States Navy has a cost-effective solution: replace them all with Xbox 360 controllers!
U.S. Navy using Xbox 360 controller to operate the periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines. pic.twitter.com/Dnad8OHaiS
— MilitaryConnection (@TheGoToSite) September 19, 2017
Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, recalled why Navy officials began experimenting with videogame hardware: “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?’ and one of the things that came out is the controls for the scope,” he said. “It’s kind of clunky in your hand; it’s real heavy.”
It’s great to hear that our submarine pilots will have a far easier time controlling the periscope with comfortable Xbox 360 controllers, and it’s even better when you find out that the $30 videogame controllers are replacing an unwieldly control system that costs $38,000 per unit. Not only does this save the taxpayers a boatload of money, the Xbox controller allows operators to easily learn how to handle the periscope within minutes.
The USS Colorado will be the first submarine to get the Xbox 360 controller upgrade this November, which will be the standard periscope control system for all new Virginia-class submarines. It will be installed on current submarines through the “normal modernization process.” The Navy aims to utilize similar solutions using iPads and other commercial electronics to create technology that new crew members would immediately understand and be comfortable with using.
The next time you’re ready to tell your kids to get off the Xbox and play outside, just remind yourself that playing Minecraft or Halo could be early training for their career in the Navy!