Navy to Use Xbox Controllers on Submarine Periscopes

The U.S. Navy's submarines will be using controllers from the Xbox video game system to control its periscope, according to The Virginian-Pilot. 

Virginia-class submarines do not have rotating tube periscopes such as those seen in movies, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The periscope now has two photonics masts that rotate 360 degrees and have high-resolution cameras.

However, the helicopter-style controller was not popular among the junior officers and sailors. "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?'" Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard said. "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."

The Xbox controller is similar to the ones many crew members grew up using to play video games, and while training on the helicopter-style stick took hours, sailors picked up the Xbox controller within minutes, the report said.

Lockheed Martin and Navy officials had been looking for ways to cut costs. The photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel cost about $38,000 to be replaced, and Xbox controllers cost less than $30, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

"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 chief navigator of the USS John Warner. "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 Navy said that the Xbox controller has been tested extensively for two years and will be included in Virginia-class subs, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

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