US Navy to Use Xbox 360 Controllers in Warfare Submarines

The military will soon be using the Xbox 360 controllers in its submarines, and possibly many more crafts and machines.

The world has long ago moved on from the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller, including Microsoft themselves. However, the military maintains that this humble controller remains one of the best tools for operating complex military mechanisms.

The Virginian-Pilot reported in an article that appeared last week Friday, that the Navy believes that the Xbox 360 controllers are perfect for performing complex military operations, while also being cost-efficient. The US Navy in particular plans to incorporate these controllers on their latest nuclear-powered warfare submarines to guide periscopes.

Currently Virginia submarines utilize mast-mounted digital cameras that can be viewed on multiple screens. Past submarine crafts had a single-viewer rotating periscope instead. Up until recently, the photonic masts used a joystick which required hours of training and also came at the steep price tag of $38 000. By using an Xbox 30 controller instead, it’s not only more cost efficient, but something most people are already familiar with.

Assistant navigator of USS John Warner, Chief Mark Eichenlaub, also emphasised the convenience of these controllers. Xbox 360 controllers can be bought from anywhere in the world, which makes them easy to replace, and ideal to use.

The military started looking for ways to make the duties of junior officers easier. According to Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, assistant weapons officer of the USS John Warner, many junior officers struggled with the military joysticks that were overly complicated, awkward and heavy to use.

This is not the first time the military used gaming technology in their machines and weapons. The military has previously utilized an Xbox 360 controller to control a high-energy laser gun that blasts mortar shells and drones. But reporters started noticing Xbox controllers featuring prominently on military images and videos over a decade ago. 

The idea for implementing Xbox 360 controllers originated in a classified research lab in Manassas, Virginia. The lab is used for sailors and engineers to collaborate on finding ways to implement different commercial hardware and software in Navy submarines. Implementing the actual Xbox 360 controller was reportedly thought of by Lockheed Martin.

According to Lockheed Martin, they refer to the lab as “Area 51”, because it is similarly classified like the eponymous Air Force base in Nevada. In addition to this, the masses of gaming technology in the lab, the name also refers to the Area 51 arcade game.

In most of the promotional images of the lab, it looks more like gamers involved in an enticing video game, rather than classified lab research which will modify modern warfare.

To date, Microsoft has not yet commented on its thoughts on the military implementing their technology.


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