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iPads Replace Paper Manuals For Air Force Unit

Personnel in the Air Force Special Operations Unit will begin accessing flight information and technical manuals on mobile devices.

An Air Force unit plans to do away with paper-based flight information and technical manuals and transfer them to iPads for nearly 3,000 of its personnel in a cost-cutting measure.

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to procure 2,861 black iPad2 devices from an authorized Apple reseller to maintain and update the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Flight Information Publications (FLIP) via a "global electronic update infrastructure," according to a notice posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

"This will replace physical paper copies and the manual update process which will reduce printing costs and man hours spent issuing, changing, shipping, distributing and re-stocking publications both on and off the aircraft," according to the notice.

The move follows similar ones by the commercial aviation industry to move from paper-based flight manuals to electronic ones stored and accessed on mobile devices.

The AFSOC plans to load the iPads with the electronic reader application GoodReader, which it said supports "mission security and synchronization requirements," according to the notice.

The devices also must be compatible with the National Geospatial Administration's (NGA's) flight publication application, the standard method of distribution of the DOD's FLIP to mobile devices.

The Air Force decided to go with iPads and GoodReader for the digital transition after a three-month ground and flight test evaluation of multiple tablet devices, apps and other "potential technical solutions," according to the notice.

The Air Force's move supports a trend across the military and other government agencies to increasingly use iPads, iPhones, and Android-based smartphones and tablets to cut costs and create efficiencies.

Recently, the DOD approved a version of the Android OS running on a Dell Streak 5 tablet for use across the department. This year, the DOD plans to begin distributing the tablets widely to give personnel broader access to department applications.

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