U.S. Air Force plans $50M savings over 10 years in iPad rollout

U.S. Air Force plans $50M savings over 10 years in iPad rollout

Summary: Now that the U.S. government and military have approved iPhones and iPads for secure use, the U.S. Air Force plans on spending a little to save a lot in the long-run.

(Image: U.S. Department of Defense, via CNET)

The biggest threat to the U.S. Air Force may not be ground-to-air missiles, hostile Russian forces on the Bering Strait, or a foreign invasion of British troops across the eastern seaboard.

It's paper. And iPads are saving the day, according to reports.

The U.S. Air Force will save approximately $50 million across ten years — more than $5 million per year — on replacing heavy, cost-ineffective paper manuals and flight plans, which in some cases contain tens of thousands of pages of information, with Apple-branded tablets. 

According to The Street, the need to deploy Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) will free up weight taken on board the aircraft and allow additional resources to be loaded instead. 

"We're saving about 90 pounds of paper per aircraft and limiting the need for each crew member to carry a 30 to 40 pound paper pile," Major Brian Moritz, the U.S. Air Force's EFB program manager, told the financial publication.

Last year, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC) was granted a $9.3 million contract for 18,000 iPads — despite not at the time being cleared for U.S. government use — in order to replace the bulky flight manuals. 

According to the report, the weight of a stocky person can be saved in a four-person C-17 transport plane, and up to double that in a C-5 behemoth. By comparison, the latest iPad with Retina display weighs just 1.46 pounds and can store millions of flight plans and document pages. 

The Air Force is aiming to save at least $5.7 million in fuel costs alone, which is "well over $50 million," according to the major. But the cost saving isn't everything. Being able to quickly pull up "engine fire" through a simple PDF search is far easier — and less stressful — than flicking through tens of thousands of pages of text. It also might save the U.S. taxpayer even more money in the long run by not crashing the $168 million mega-plane into a mountain or a Taliban stronghold.

Now 16,000 third-generation iPads are being dished out to crew members, with the other 2,000 iPads deploying across other units. 

Last week, the U.S. military certified Apple's iOS 6 operating system, used on both iPhones and iPads, secure enough for low-level clearance work. This came just days after the U.S. government cleared the software for government use earlier in May after being granted FIPS 140-2 status.

Topics: iPad, Apple, Government US, iOS

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 3 Things

    1) Theft
    2) Rough handling, this is the military
    3) Dust and dirt on a flight line

    Yeah, you can get a case to address handling and dust but theft will be a big problem.
    • One Thing

      18,000 already deployed last year. Your points are moot.
      • Hardly

        Theft is moot huh? I presume you never served in the U.S. Military.

        What are the numbers for lost or stolen units? How many have been replaced due to damage? What (if any) protective cases are used to prevent damage from drops, spills, rain and dust?

        Nobody cares to steal unclassified paper manuals. Paper manuals can be dropped, dusted off, photocopied, reprinted and take a certain amount of rain.
        • Also

          Paper manuals can be read with red lens flashlights when white light is restricted and do not need a battery to be useful.
    • LifeProof or OtterBox

      As long as the devices aren't dropped on their screen, those two types of cases seem to do a bang-up job in protecting their contents.
  • OMG!!!

    Quick, Owlnet1, hurry and go tell the Defense Department that iPads are toys that can't be used for real work before they go make this big mistake!!!
    • plastic toys

      they are using it replace some manuals...no big news here.
      • Indeed

        Just the comment I'd expect from an irrational iHater.
      • So

        So are these toy manuals, now, or a far more efficient interactive, searchable, networked, updateable cost-effective digital manual database?
      • plastic

        There is not much plastic in an iPad. But yes, no big news here --- iPad are used all around the aviation industry already.
        • Complaints

          And yet I continue to hear complaints about how governments waste taxpayer money. All we hear about is the waste. To me and I'm sure many other concerned taxpayers hearing about MILLIONS being saved IS NEWS.
          • No this is absurd waste. They could easily saved

            at least half of this money buying non apple phones and tablets. Paying millions extra just to put taxpayers money into apples bank because they chose the highest margin OEM is not a good deal for anyone except apple.
            Johnny Vegas
          • Two reasons for high margins

            Sure, the iPad mini is overpriced to maintain profit margins. But is the iPad overpriced compared to competitors? Margins are irrelevant if the high margins are due to lower component costs due to relationships with manufacturers.

            Even if there was a 50% premium like the 'Apple tax' on the mini, I assume that security is a more significant issue for the military than price.
          • As long as it doesn't cost then 60 milliom

            to save 50 million.

            Not saying this is a bad idea, I just don't believe the current government knows how to do accounting.
            William Farrel
      • Oops

        In other news it looks like they just might be used for other things then manuals.
  • this is writer is an i-staff

    he is just sing praising ipads and iphone what of others that got approval before i-toys?
    • They are toys... used as a reader....

      iOS is a toy OS... they are using it replace some manuals...no big news here.
      • Toys?!?

        Of course they're toys. Toys that will save the US military over $50M.

        How much will these 'toys' save US commercial airline industry? Or and the US auto industry? Or and science? Publishing? Music/Entertainment? Medicine?

        These 'toys' have over 350,000 apps available (substantially more than any of its competitors) and are selling at the rat of 222,000 per DAY! More importantly for investors, like me, that very profitable.
        • Favourite app

          Save the multi-billion $ plane from hitting the mountain.

          Great app for those flying stealth fighters that quickly need to restart the engines or re-install a wing. For the bargain price of $0.69 you too can save your hide from a disaster only recoverable by pilots with an itoy.

          $50million savings = BS.
          Little Old Man
        • If they just wanted an ebook reader....

          ...wasn't a Kindle or a Nook cheaper?