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- Photos show Ukrainian soldiers using a Steam Deck to operate the Sabre weapon system.
- The US Navy has used Xbox controllers in some submarines since 2018.
- The US military is also investing in weapons systems that utilize Xbox-style controllers.
Ukrainian soldiers appear to be using an unusual device in combat against Russian forces: a video game console.
Photos posted by the Ukrainian news outlet TPO Media showed Ukrainian soldiers remotely operating a machine gun turret using what appears to be a Steam Deck — a handheld video game console developed by the company Valve and released last year.
The console was being used to control the “Sabre” weapon platform, TPO Media reported. The Sabre was created as the result of a successful crowdfunding effort that launched in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea, according to Vice. It is a remotely operated machine gun turret that can be controlled and fired from 500 meters away.
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“This module is designed to destroy enemy personnel and light armored vehicles,” the crowdfunding site says. “Unlike the standard platform, the module Sabre fully protects the soldier from enemy’s fire as he is in an armored car or coordinating platform remotely.”
Valve, the maker of Steam Deck, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
According to the tech publication PCMag, it’s unlikely Valve supports the use of the Steam Deck in this way but the company probably can’t prevent it since the console is a relatively open platform for running software.
It’s not the first time a military has utilized video game hardware.
In 2017, the US Navy announced it would begin using Xbox 360 controllers to operate the photonics masts, which replaced periscopes, on submarines. The USS Colorado, a 377-foot-long sub that joined the Navy’s fleet in 2018, was the first to utilize the controllers.
Cmdr. Reed Koepp said at the time utilizing the controllers saved money and had the added benefit of young sailors already knowing how to handle them, USA Today reported.
In March, Task and Purpose reported that at least two major weapons systems that the US military is investing in utilize Xbox-style controllers. Photos show the devices are of similar shape, size, and even button layout as an Xbox controller.
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Israel’s armed forces have also turned to video games, utilizing Xbox controllers in tanks and artificial intelligence trained by the video game “StarCraft II” in its combat vehicles, The Washington Post reported in 2020.