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Air Force ready to buy up to 18,000 iPads for cargo aircraft

by David Needle

February 7 2012

The United States Air Force is apparently ready to follow the lead of commercial airlines and jump on the tablet bandwagon. A recent notice indicates the Air Force wants to buy thousands of Apple iPad 2s for the crews that fly cargo aircraft.

The goal is to replace the paper charts and technical manuals the crew now has to carry. American Airlines and a number of other commercial carriers have already started to replace pilots manuals, which can total hundreds of pounds, with iPads. 

The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) planned purchase could be the largest single federal order for a tablet, according to the site NextGov, which reported on the deal after seeing a notice at the Federal Business Opportunities website. The notice said AMC wants to buy "a minimum of 63 and a maximum of 18,000, iPad 2, Brand Name or Equal devices” for cargo aircraft such as the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster. 

But AMC Public Affairs Director Lt. Col. Glen Roberts told NextGov the command "is looking for a tablet device, not necessarily an iPad.” While Apple is not a lock to get the deal, it’s worth noting the iPad already has been chosen by the Air Force Special Operations Command which said last month it planned to buy 2,861 iPad2s as electronic flight bags for its crews.  It’s not clear what will determine how close AMC comes to buying at the top range of 18,000 devices. 

"Moving from a paper-based to an electronically-based flight publication system will not only enhance operational effectiveness, it can also save the Department of Defense time and money," Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, AMC Director of Operations, told an Air Force publication last December. 

American Airlines started deploying iPads to its pilots after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave it permission last December to replace paper manuals with Apple's popular device. 

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