Legacy Microsoft controllers to operate periscopes aboard next gen subs.
The U.S. Navy has revealed that after an extensive two year training program, it has officially adopted last generation legacy Xbox 360 controllers to operate the periscopes aboard its next generation submarines.
The idea that the submarines would even contemplate using game controllers to operate periscopes on subs that cost an average of $2,000,000,000 each is perhaps disconcerting, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
The Gamer generation
“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, referring to junior officers and sailors. “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,” said a report in Military.com.
And then someone apparently suggested using an Xbox 360 controller instead. That custom designed joystick by Lockheed Martin, by the way, costs $38,000.
Of course, there are advantages to using 360 controllers instead of proprietary designed equipment. For one thing, they are $37,960 cheaper than the current system at only around $40 each.
But perhaps more important than the cost is the fact that using an Xbox 360 controller is almost second nature to the current generation of young sailors.
The US Navy will begin stocking all new Virginia class subs with the legacy controllers in the future, starting with the USS Colorado due to be commissioned into active service later this year.
No. The traditional periscope does not exist in newer submarines. Instead submarines like the Virginia class pictured above have masts that use photonic sensors and high definition cameras to relay information. And sailors don’t look through the glass one at a time. Instead information from the periscope mast is displayed on a number of screens in the control room.
Another advantage of not having a traditional periscope is that the pressure hull of the submarine is far stronger because it doesn’t have to account for a vertical steel pipe sticking up through it. As well as that it also allows submarines to travel faster and quieter than before and saves on building costs.
Gaming just got real?
Kind of. Except a nuclear missile carrying submarine is very real indeed. One of the reasons Xbox 360 controllers have been utilized is that the design is over a decade old at this point and has been tried and tested. The humble controller has also been widely praised as one of, if not the best, controllers ever designed.
At the time of writing, the US NAVY had not commented on whether its submarines would need an Xbox gold membership to unlock multiplayer modes, or if they would need an always on internet connection to get the most out of the new control system!