Private pilots have been using the iPad since the day it was first announced in 2010. Most major US airlines are either flying with the iPad or evaluating them for use on the flight deck. And Fortune 500 companies are adding tablets in huge numbers too. Who’s left? The military.
While you might think the military would be pretty skeptical of consumer technology like the iPad, the reverse is actually true. The US Air Force has just awarded a contract to buy up to 18,000 iPads for use by their pilots worldwide. The Air Mobility Command will use the WiFi-only iPad 2 with a 32GB hard drive, and is reportedly buying the $599 tablet at a bulk discount price of $520. Just like pilots everywhere, the Air Force hopes to reduce the weight, cost and complexity of keeping paper charts and publications up to date.
But don’t expect to see F-16 pilots playing Angry Birds in combat. Air Mobility Command encompasses mostly transport airplanes, including the C-5 and C-130 heavy haulers and the KC-135 tanker. In fact, a plan to equip its Special Operations Command (AFSOC) with 3,000 iPads was recently canceled–citing security concerns.