An Air Force unit will purchase up to 18,000 iPad 2 devices from Executive Technology Inc. to serve as electronic flight information manuals.
The Air Force Mobility Command has awarded the Apple reseller a $9.36 million contract for the devices, which it set out to procure about a month ago.
At the time, the agency did not specify whether it would buy iPads or "equal" tablet devices, but apparently has gone with the former after reviewing 24 proposals, according to an award notice on FedBizOpps.gov.
The unit plans to use the iPads to serve as "electronic flight bags," storing flight training and operations manuals and information for flight crew members and trainers.
The Air Force's move to electronic manuals follow the aviation industry, which has begun to do so after the Federal Aviation Administration in December approved iPads for use in the cockpit during commercial flights.
[ Tablets are infiltrating every avenue of government. See U.S. Marines Say Yes Sir To Tablets. ]
Another Air Force unit, the Special Operations Command, also planned to purchase iPads--nearly 3,000 of them--for a similar purpose but cancelled the procurement late last month, saying its acquisition strategy for the devices was inconsistent with other Air Force units. An Air Force spokesperson said the unit still plans to go ahead with the procurement at a later time.
Federal agencies increasingly are adopting the use of commercial smartphones and tablet devices based on Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform. However, Apple's iOS, which powers both iPhones and iPads, has not yet passed the military's security clearance, though Apple is working with the government to address this issue.
Though the Air Force gave iPads the nod for its flight manuals, the only tablet device that's already been cleared security-wise for use at the Department of Defense is based on Android. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has published a Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) for the Dell Android mobile platform based on the Dell Streak 5 device, a move that will allow the DOD to distribute the devices to personnel this year.
As federal agencies embrace devices and apps to meet employee demand, the White House seeks one comprehensive mobile strategy. Also in the new Going Mobile issue of InformationWeek Government: Find out how the National Security Agency is developing technologies to make commercial devices suitable for intelligence work. (Free registration required.)