U.S. Air Force buying up to 18,000 iPads

U.S. Air Force buying up to 18,000 iPads

The U.S. Air Force has ordered over $9 million dollars worth of 32GB iPads to use as digital manuals and navigation charts for aircraft pilots and crews in the Air Mobility Command. Bloomberg quotes:

“Aircrews fly nonstop worldwide missions and require access to flight publications both on and off the aircraft, throughout all phases of flight,” [Captain Kathleen Ferrero] said in an e-mail. The so-called electronic flight bags will help crews operate more effectively and safely, and support the Pentagon’s efficiency goals, she said.

Although that contract would let the Air Force buy up to 18,000 iPads, how many they actually get funded and approved for remains to be seen. They currently have 63 iPads on order for testing.

The Air Force didn't specifically go after Apple's iPad either. It was an open evaluation and price sounds like it was a significant factor. The Air Force will be getting a discount of about $70 per iPad off the 32 GB model.

The FAA recently approved iPads for use in U.S civil aviation as well, and Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are already putting them to use. So it looks like the future of digital manuals and navigation is well under way.

Now we just need the Firefox/Stealth-like super fighters to hurry up and get here so we can all enjoy a little thought-controlled iPad fun...

Source: Bloomberg

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

U.S. Air Force buying up to 18,000 iPads


Kinda surprising considering the BlackBerry PlayBook meets security specifications and requirements for the US and Canadian governments.

Blackberry probably does not meet the financial security needed to support this in the future.

But flight PLANS are classified and need to be protected. I can't imagine the flight plans for any comatose mission, air force 1, etc would be anything less than Top Secret.

DISA has iOS STIGs (Security Technical Implementation Guides) which will bring an iPad up to security standards. Why adopt a piece of hardware like the Playbook that is inferior and requires BES and dedicated hardware beyond what is really needed (especially when everyone in the government is screaming for an iPhone)? With the rollout of Enterprise email, consolidated data centers, and the introduction of newer hardware that can allow access to data in new ways, why stick with RIM/BB/BES? It's a horrible idea.

The PlayBook should have been chosen, it's the perfect portable size, and it fits in the flight suit, ABU pants and jacket pockets
As long as members of the Air Force can not access the App Store for games I guess we can all live another day.

Considering the reference to the film that photo is from, no. You might have missed that completely...

The "electronic flight bag" appears to have been cancelled, or at least postponed, by the Special Operations branch. This 18,000 order is for other uses, and the USAF has said they would be specifically configured only to allow duty-related activities, and that they will not be used for Classified functions.Air Force Times

It's still for electronic flight bag use, just by Air Mobility Command and not by AFSOC. AFSOC was never a part of this procurement.

So, why are you using a photo from a bad Navy movie to illustrate a story about the Air Force?
Journalism pro tip: You can go to any of the service's news sites and use the imagery there gratis. It's public domain, just credit it accordingly.

I was going to use a picture of Firefox, but a Russian plane seemed even less-right than a cheap Jessica Biel shot. Either way, I certainly misunderstood the sense of humor of a small portion of our audience and will adjust accordingly.

Rene -- It's a combination of service rivalry and culture. We tend to take such things a bit seriously, since we often worry about the public at large not understanding our roles, missions and responsibilities.
The Air Force has done a lot of hard work and research to bring iOS into government adoption. Aircrews replacing their checklists and maps with iOS apps, integrating communication and training, along with a lot of other programs to enhance the technology used in the military.
To you, it might seem like a throwaway picture and tag at the bottom of an article. But for the Airmen and Air Force civilians who are working their tails off to get new technology into their workcenters, it's a missed opportunity for recognition at best, and an ill-pointed jab at their efforts at worst.
A lot of those folks (and I work with a number) read your site and would normally be excited to see an article from you, but that all gets lost in the choice of a bad stock photo representing the wrong service, and the wrong concept of the mission altogether.

Omg I was watching them walk across that platform right as I loaded this page, what a coincidence lol, it's on crackle on Xbox 360.

@Rob White - lol Peace?? Starting wars or bothering other countries and expecting them not to retaliate will not result in peace. I'm sorry but what u see on TV is not entirely true since they only show what they want u to see. There maybe a glimpse of hope for peace till the US Government stops bothering other countries.

While I'll submit that the U.S. has played its fair share of a role in world conflict, you can't be so naive as to think that if the U.S. just stopped "bothering" other countries world peace would be achievable, or even that global hostility would decrease.

I'm very surprised that this article doesn't mention the fact that iPads, iPhones and even Android devices can be configured to comply with DISA's STIGs which will allow them to fall within the security standards that are required to be used within the NIPRNet environment. I'm also surprised that anyone would want to consider the PlayBook over an iPad. Either they've never used the PlayBook, or they've never used an iPad. The 'BES is already installed' argument is moot too.. no one in the Government really likes BES. Its days are very numbered.

I just read in the newspaper that USSOCOM their buy because of concerns with supply chain security and because these puppies are manufactured and assembled in China. Some general in the pentagon must be thinking we must buy Amerian products to ensure milspecs and security standards. Even if they comply with DISA's STIGs there is a possibility that the device may have some compromising backdoors that could be use to spy on US Forces worldwide since this article says AMC will issue the pads to their flight crews.

That makes no sense and the article Dev posted refutes that claim. Much of the IT the military uses is manufactured in Chine.

Haha, if that were the case, imagine how many things we use would be on the "do not use" list...
In short, uh, no.

"Stealth" was a horrendous mash-up of cliches, embarrassingly bad writing, and unrealistic combat scenarios. But hey, Jessica Biel in a bikini made it all worthwhile.

See a lot of people saying the Playbook should have been choosen, but only the iPad was cleared by the FAA for aviation use with flight maps. Just sayin

This news is so last month. Anyway other testing goes into military equipment other than security like resistance to elctromagnetic pulse and such. There is a reason they went with an iPad instead of a $200 kindle fire.

By the way, the new photo is a shot of the F-35 aka JSF (Joint Strike Fighter.) And no, there won't be any iPads on board. Not during high-g maneuvers anyway. The F-35 can pull 9.9g.

The air force tends to get the "Gucci" toys first among the DOD branches. I hope their tests go well and we "other" services get to see some of the benefits. As a military pilot I can tell you the current system of distribution is falls well short of ideal. I constantly have to beg, borrow and sometimes steal approach plates and charts for a simple cross country flight. My aircraft has enough room for a water bottle and a local high/low plate. If the flight requires more than that, I'll have a bunch of stuff stashed in pockets and voids that tend to wander in zero and negative g. I'd love to have the entire library onboard knowing its current and complete. As for a high g / tactical environment, I see no problem with with the device. It can't be anymore cumbersome than the system of paper publications I use now. The first big draw back I see, I wear gloves! Now they'll have to perform an entire test and evaluation of iPad flight approved gloves. This is how we get $1000 toilet seats.

Ive already seen a number of the first generation iPads given out for desktop testing with huge black bumpers bolted to them. 7-8 months ago, at least.