Navy to use Xbox controllers to operate new periscope systems

Yolanda Curtis
September 19, 2017

According to a report on, the Navy is installing Xbox 360 game controllers onto its Virginia-class 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.

As a result, Lockheed Martin experimented with other systems like multi-touch tables and Kinect, but the $30 Xbox Controller was the victor amongst sailors and the government. "And one of the things that came out is the controls for the scope". Plus, the joystick was heavy and clunky, and it takes hours to train a sailor to use it.

An Xbox 360 controller is not an advanced piece of equipment but it appears that this is quite a smart usage of something that is readily available, cheap, efficient, and able to serve its goal.

Of course, there are advantages to using 360 controllers instead of proprietary designed equipment.

Microsoft has moved on from the Xbox 360, which it introduced in 2005, but it'll live on for a generation of young sailors who grew up with the device.

After extensive testing, the controller-based system will make its debut with the USS Colorado, meant to be commissioned by November 2017.

No. The traditional periscope does not exist in newer submarines. Periscope viewing is now performed via high-resolution cameras that relay their video to big-screen displays. As well as that it also allows submarines to travel faster and quieter than before and saves on building costs.

Roll on a twelve years and the venerable controller has been replaced by the updated Xbox One controller, with its rumbling triggers and refined design.

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