Ukrainian fighter jets are using Apple iPads to meld modern tech with Soviet-era airplanes, official confirms

iPadOS 17 and Stage Manager being used outside, with dog in background
(Image credit: iMore)

Apple's iPad is a hugely popular tablet all around the globe, and it's used to do much more than just stream the latest binge-worthy Apple TV Plus show. We've seen iPads used in all kinds of scenarios and they're used as a matter of course in cockpits of airplanes around the globe every day. But now it's been reported that Apple's tablets are also being used in an even more demanding environment — the cockpits of fighter jets.

Not just any fighter jets, either. These iPads are being used in the cockpits of Ukrainian fighter jets during its war with Russia in an attempt to make the most of new, advanced weapons technology that might otherwise not be compatible with the Soviet-era airplanes that are being employed by the Ukrainian Air Force.

The news was confirmed by US Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, William LaPlante, who was speaking at a Washington DC press conference.

Controlled by an iPad

The press conference, first reported on by TWZ, saw LaPlante discuss the use of iPads in wartime. He was reportedly asked to provide examples of successful programs that involved developing new capabilities quickly and then getting them into the hands of people who need them. The example used was Ukraine.

“There’s also a series of … we call it ‘air-to-ground,’ it’s what we call it euphemistically … think about the aircraft that the Ukrainians have, and not even the F-16s, but they have a lot of the Russian and Soviet-era aircraft," TWZ reports LaPlante as saying. "Working with the Ukrainians, we’ve been able to take many Western weapons and get them to work on their aircraft where it’s basically controlled by an iPad by the pilot. And they’re flying it in conflict like a week after we get it to him.”

But you don't have to take LaPlante's word for it, because the Ukrainian Air Force has shared a video that appears to show an iPad being used in-flight. You can see the video above, and it's hard to see exactly which iPad is used (if indeed this isn't another off-the-shelf tablet) or what it's being used for, but there does seem to be some sort of map on-screen. Given the size of the display and the way it dominates the cockpit, we also have to imagine that there is other important in-flight information shown, too. Especially given the fact it appears to block physical instruments.

Apple has rarely been too far from the Ukraine-Russia war headlines. During the early stages, Apple was among companies that removed their products and services from sales in Russia, for example, while Apple has long had a strained relationship with the Russian government in general. Apple's iPhones and iPads are banned for use in Russian government buildings over surveillance concerns, while Apple pro-level creativity apps have also been banned.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.