U.S. Navy launches new attack submarine with Xbox controllers on board

Xbox wireless controller
Xbox wireless controller (Image credit: Windows Central)

The U.S. Navy put its latest submarine, the USS Colorado, into service this weekend. And while it's described as "a true marvel of technology and innovation" by Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, at least part of the new submarine is powered by a piece of technology that looks like it belongs more in the living room than the ocean's depths: an Xbox controller.

As The Associated Press reports (opens in new tab), the USS Colorado is the first U.S. Navy submarine to use Xbox 360 controllers to control its photonics masts. Last September, the Navy revealed that the Xbox controllers would replace complicated helicopter-style joysticks that were that required specialized training to use.

The biggest advantage to the move comes down to cost: the specialized joysticks cost around $38,000 apiece. In contrast, Xbox 360 controllers can be picked up off the shelf for around $30 and are much easier to replace. Young sailors are also more likely to be familiar with operating a gamepad, Cmdr. Reed Koepp, the USS Colorado's commanding officer, told The Associated Press.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

24 Comments
  • Dangerous tech for the big boys playing with nukes!
  • I highly doubt that the xbox 360 controllers is used to launch the nukes.
  • Considering some of the British arrangements in the 50s/60s, I wouldn't be so sure.
  • The Colorado is an attack submarine, not a ballistic missile submarine. It doesn't carry nuclear weapons.
  • It might carry tactical nuclear torpedos which are tub busters that are deep diving. 
  • I love this image. Ship pulls into port and XO goes to local GameStop to buy a new controller and sales clerk tries to up sell him to an Xbox one X...
  • If they had an elite controller they'd be unstoppable
  • I am sure the Marines will be getting 2600 controllers...
  • What about stick drift....
  • They are probably replaced often. Maybe they even get a custom version.
  • I'd rather control my attack submarine with a mouse and keyboard.
  • I suppose there's no issue with split-screen play here so it should be OK, after all your opponent will likely not be in the same room.
  • Most military consoles use trackballs (so they don't come unplugged or get lost.) and, after all, a Mouse is just an upside-down trackball anyway (it started out that way.)
  • I wonder if they are truly using off-the-shelf controllers or if they are environmentally hardened.
  • Yeah, that was my concern.  I don't know what "photonic masts" are, but if they're on the ship, I'm sure they need to work.  Of course, it's not like there would be any water.... under water..... to get on the controller and ruin it. lol
  • 'Photonic mast'... hmm, sounds like flowery language for 'lighthouse' or 'spotlight' to me.
  • They are replacements for the periscope. Periscopes uses mirros and such and therefore the periscope has to penetrate the pressure hull in order to for the operator to see since they need line of sight to the top of the periscope. It also only allows 1 person to see what's going on.  Photonic masts have fibre optic cameras instead. the Picture is transmitted down to monitors that could presumably be seen from any monitor on the ship. It also has IR and such on it. The biggest  upside is that the mast no longer penetrates the pressure hull so elimiates you cutting a whole in the strongest part of the submarine and therefore makes it safer. The fact that these "custom" joysticks cost $38k is the ridiculous part. Kind of sounds like sending a pencil in to space instead of designing a pen that works upside down.....
  • Lol, the amount of money spent on over engineering a pen could have been used for future Nasa projects. Although I am sure thr knowledge of fluid dynamics in zero g has been applied to other projects otherwise it's really a net loss over all.
  • Imagine the achievement list
  • Yep, Didn't start war with China today [tick], Didn't start war with Russia today [tick], Didn't start war with North Korea today [tick], not a bad incentive scheme.
  • 360 no scope!
  • They'll need a trackball as well for Missile Command
  • Smh
  • I can just hear it now; Captain: "Jenkins, raise periscope!" Jenkins: "Hang on sir, I have to finish this level first!"