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Air Force cancels order for 3,000 Apple iPads

Apple

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) on Wednesday canceled without explanation a plan to buy nearly 3,000 iPad 2s to be used as electronic flight bags.

Announced in January, the initiative would have seen AFSOC purchase 2,861 iPad 2 units for use in the Command’s fleet of surveillance aircraft and helicopter gunships. As in the commercial airline industry, the devices would have been used to replace 40 pounds of manuals and navigation charts typically carried by pilots and navigators.

That seems a sensible plan, and it’s not clear why AFSOC has scrapped it. Some theorize that the Command’s decision to outfit the iPads with GoodReader, a popular iPad document reader created by a Russian software developer, raised security concerns and questions about how well the plan had been vetted. Others wonder if the agency has simply postponed the initiative until the iPad 3 debuts.

According to AFSOC spokeswoman Capt. Kristen Duncan, the Command is still very much interested in using tablets to lighten the load of flight crews. “[The Command] continues to explore options to develop the electronic flight bag program,” she told Nextgov.co. 

“We continue to look at each component of the [electronic flight bag] program to ensure we do the right thing for our airmen, don’t introduce unnecessary risk into operations and provide the best tools available to conduct the mission.”