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

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.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on
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.

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