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Navy to use Xbox controllers for periscope systems on Virginia-class submarines

(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Casey Hopkins)
September 18, 2017

The U.S. Navy will soon begin to use Xbox controllers to operate periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines, the Virginia Pilot reported.


Virginia class submarines don’t have rotating periscopes that only one individual can look through at a time. Instead, they have high-resolution cameras that can be viewed on multiple large monitors.

“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 Virginia Plot. “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.”

They can be controlled with a helicopter-style stick that costs tens of thousands of dollars and requires hours of training, but the Navy intends to use Xbox 360 controllers because they are much easier for young sailors to learn and require less training as several of them have grown up using them.

An Xbox 360 controller costs about $30-$40 while the photonic masts and image control panels went for $38,000.

The USS Colorado, which is set to be commissioned by November, will be the first submarine to have integrated Xbox controllers into their system.