The United States Navy’s newest submarine, the USS Colorado, went into service this weekend. In the Pentagon’s announcement Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer called the vessel “a true marvel of technology and innovation.” But part of the 377-foot-long Virginia-Class submarine is operated with a 12-year-old Xbox 360 controller.
Thee USS Colorado is able to launch Tomahawk missiles at submarines and ships, but it can also be used to transport special operation troops and conduct surveillance. The Xbox controller is used to maneuver the photonic masts—sensors that have replaced periscopes in modern submarines. The Associated Press reports that this is the first attack submarine that uses a gaming controller.
The US military has used Xbox 360 before. For instance, to operate a high-energy laser gun for blasting drones and mortar shells.
Last September, The Virginia-Pilot reported that the Navy was beginning to replace $38,000 joystick-style controllers with $39.95 Xbox 360 controllers because the Microsoft-built devices are significantly cheaper, easier to replace, and require less training because many service members already know how to use them.
The idea to use Xbox controllers for Virginia-Class submarines reportedly came from Lockheed Martin’s “classified research lab” in Manassas, Virginia, known within the defense technology company as the Navy’s “Area 51.”