Air Force Might Replace Manuals with 18,000 iPads

The U.S. Air Mobility Command (AMC) is looking for a few good tablets (with apologies to the Marine Corps) to replace bulky flight manuals and flight charts. A logistics arm of the Air Force—or the “airline for the Air Force,” as noted in the comments below—the AMC announced that it will be purchasing, “a minimum of 63 and a maximum of 18,000, iPad 2, Brand Name or Equal devices” as part of its effort to reduce its reliance on paper manuals.

U.S. Air Force & the iPad

The announcement was first spotted by NextGov (via 9to5Mac), which first reported the plan as one to specifically buy iPad 2 models from Apple. Lt. Col. Glen Roberts of the AMC has since clarified that it is looking for, “a tablet device, not necessarily an iPad.”

The issue of replacing flight manuals with iPads (or other tablets, but…you know, iPads) was first latched onto by commercial airlines who saw the devices as a great way to lower costs. Tablets not only weigh less, they can be kept up to date far more easily and much more cheaply than printing new manuals.

United Airlines, for instance, announced in August that it would save 326,000 gallons of fuel per year by using iPads instead of printed manuals. Delta announced its own iPad program in August, and other airlines have been working on their own programs.

This same sentiment was voiced in December by Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, director of operations for the AMC, who said, “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.”

One issue facing the military when it comes to moving to a device like the iPad is that iOS hasn’t yet been certified by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. According to NextGov, security certification for Apple’s mobile operating system isn’t expected until August of 2012 at the earliest.

The AMC’s plan to buy up to 18,000 tablets could, therefore, take until sometime after that before it is implemented.