THE US NAVY is putting Xbox controllers and digital cameras in its submarines so that it can do away with boring things like periscopes.
The Military.com website reports on the change of design at the Navy, and says that it is using the living room and leisure technology in its most advanced submarines, the suitably-named Virginia Class Attack Submarine.
"The Virginia Class attack submarine is the U.S. Navy's newest undersea warfare platform and incorporates the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapons systems technology," explains Military.com.
"Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces; carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare".
In short, you do not want one to surface in your garden pond.
The change in technology was inspired by junior officers who were apparently asked what differences would make the submarine better to use. It was agreed that periscope controls were clunky and that it was awkward that only one person could use them at once.
"The Navy got together and they asked a bunch of junior officers and junior guys, 'What can we do to make your life better?' " said Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner's assistant weapons officer. "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."
The Navy is just like you, probably, and likes to save money where it can. It and Lockheed Martin reportedly use off the shelf technology where they can, and we presume that they may have got some kind of bulk discount on controllers.
According to the report, a $30 controller can replace $38,000 worth of gear.
"I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement, "said Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, an assistant submarine navigator.
"Ideally, what they want to see in 10 years down the road is, there's basically a glass panel display with windows, and you can just pull a window of information, review that, push it off, bring in the next window. 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." µ
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