US Navy Xbox controller submarines
Periscope systems in the US Navy Virginia-class submarines will be controlled by Xbox gamepads as they are cheaper, easier and appeal to younger sailors. Reuters

For gamers, the battle over which console has the best controller will continue, but for the the US Navy it looks like they've sided with Microsoft after revealing plans to use Xbox 360 controllers to operate periscopes aboard its newer submarines.

The Virginian-Pilot reported on Saturday (16 September) that the Navy's Virginia-class subs don't have a traditional rotating periscope. They're being replaced by high-resolution cameras and large monitors.

They can be controlled by a helicopter-style stick. But the Navy plans to integrate an Xbox controller into the system because they're more familiar to younger sailors and require less training.

They're also cheaper. A controller typically costs less than $30 compared to the $38,000 (£28,100) cost of a photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel.

"That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine," said Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the John Warner's assistant navigator. "I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement."

The Xbox controller will be included as part of the integrated imaging system for Virginia-class subs beginning with the future USS Colorado. It is supposed to be commissioned by November.

US Navy Xbox controller submarines
A US Navy officer uses an Xbox controller to operate its systems. US Navy

It's not the first time the military has turned to gaming technology's ergonomics to control weapons and devices. The UK and US military both use console controllers to fly drones in combat and the US Army's bomb disposal robot, called the iRobot Packbot, is controlled using a simple PlayStation controller, replacing the previous 20kg Portable Command Console (PCC).

iRobot's military PackBot is being deployed at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil
iRobot's military PackBot. United States Department of Defense

Virtual reality has also been widely adopted by the military to help train its soldiers for combat situations as well as fighter pilot training and for medics to learn to cope with casualties on the battlefield.

As well as virtual training, VR and AR headsets are also being used to control weapons such as unmanned gun turrets, while pilots of the advanced F-35 jet are fed a heads-up display to a high-tech helmet that allows them to virtually look through the aircraft to spot enemies.