Xbox Controllers Now Being Used for High-Level Military Operations

The U.S. Navy is starting to use Xbox controllers as a replacement for clunkier controller options to better control some of their most advanced submarines.

When inside a submarine, you’ll likely see plenty of high-tech devices that look pretty overwhelming to those who aren’t familiar with them, but seeing an Xbox controller sitting alongside computers would be an instantly recognizable sight. That’s been the goal for using these controllers within certain submarines recently, an option that younger sailors are much more comfortable with since they grew up alongside them.

“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, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, told The Virginian-Pilot. “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.”

US Navy Xbox Controller
(Photo: U.S. Navy via The Virginian-Pilot)

Leonard’s comments about the scope referred to the photonics masts that Virginia-class submarines such as the USS John Warner use instead of the traditional tube periscope. The masts on these nuclear-powered submarines can rotate 360 degrees and have cameras that display images on screens to that several people can take see at once as opposed to one person at a time. A control stick is typically used to control these cameras, but the stick is falling out of favor with the Xbox 360 controller becoming a viable option.

Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy have been making efforts towards incorporating technology into sailors’ daily jobs that they’d be familiar with, the Xbox controller idea being part of that initiative. Lockheed Martin reportedly said that sailors who tried out the Xbox controller during testing phases were pretty much able to adapt to the controls instantly due to their familiarity with the device.

The option is also much cheaper than the expensive control stick, and the plan is to install the Xbox controllers on other Virginia-class submarines, according to Brienne Lang, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s program executive office for submarines. Further developments in the tech effort hope to include even more familiar options such as iPads and other devices.

[via The Virginian-Pilot]

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