Video skills pay off for Navy, taxpayers

Friday, September 22, 2017
 | 
Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

Xbox controllerAfter seeking input from some of its young "digital age" sailors, the U.S. Navy is working with a supplier to decrease the cost of a mechanical device on a submarine by 99.9 percent.

Skippers of submarines had a problem: only one person at a time could look through the eyepiece of a periscope, and often there needed to be a discussion of what was seen up top. So the Navy designed a remote-controlled periscope for its new Virginia-class subs that sends an image to a monitor so several crew members can view it simultaneously.

The device to control the periscope was a $38,000 joystick – which sailors described as "clunky" and "real heavy." But after getting the input from junior officers and sailors, the Navy worked with Lockheed Martin and found that an Xbox 360 controller – which typically costs less than $30 – would do the trick.

Curtis Kalin of Citizens Against Government Waste says they got it right this time.

"One of the more ingenious parts of this is that it's intuitive," Kalin tells OneNewsNow. "I grew up with Xboxes and video games the same way – and so I feel like anytime you can make the life for the servicemen better, they can do their jobs better ... which means they can protect us better."

He acknowledges that it's important the controller works in the heat of battle. "Every time these off-the-shelf solutions are tried, you have to make sure they meet, obviously, the minimum specifications – especially in terms of combat," he shares.

And of course, Kalin is pleased that the Navy will be saving taxpayers roughly $37,970 or more a pop for the devices. "I think this is honestly a very ingenious idea – and it's actually something that will reduce the cost to taxpayers, which is always a good thing," he adds.

Military.com reports that in addition to a substantially lower cost, the Xbox controllers are easily replaced by a visit to a local video game store anywhere in the world – and younger crew members adapt to the controllers within minutes, as compared to hours of training required for the joystick.

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