Though the Navy's Virginia-class submarines don't have periscopes — the tube allowing sailors to see what's going on above water — like those shown in traditional Hollywood films, they do have two photonic masts that offer 360 degree angles displayed on flat screens for the entire crew to see.
"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 heavy."
Though the brains at Lockheed Martin and the Navy were already contemplating how to use commercial technologies to reduce costs and take advantage of tools crews with already familiar with, this project fell right in line, the outlet noted.
Tested for roughly two years at Lockheed Martin's Manassas, Virginia, testing facility, officials said sailors were able to figure out how to use the controller within minutes — training with the joystick typically takes hours.
The timing spent on training wasn't the only benefit, the government would also be saving thousands. Setting back the US about $38,000, the Xbox controller racks up a bill less than $30 a piece.
"That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine," Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the Warner's assistant navigator, told the Pilot. "I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement."
Scheduled to be installed with future Virginia-class subs, the upcoming USS Colorado will be the first vessel to house the technology.
With no plans to cease updating their devices, Eichenlaub told the Pilot the Navy wants to continue its testing to the point where service members are able to easily translate their knowledge of commercial devices.
"They want to bring in sailors with what they have at home on their personal laptop, their personal desktop, what they grew up with in a classroom," he said.
This isn't the first time the US military has united the world of gaming with their crafts. In 2014, the US Army used an Xbox 360 controller to control a new laser gun designed to destroy airborne targets, including drones and mortar shells, Gizmodo reported.