In a further demonstration of the iPad's multipurpose functionality, the U.S. Air Force has awarded a $9.36 million contract to purchase up to 18,000 units of Apple's best-selling tablet. The order becomes one of the military's biggest orders of tablets to date.
The award was granted to Phoenix-based computer services company Executive Technology Inc. The Air Force intends to use the devices to replace piles of paper manuals and charts pilots would normally need to bring aboard, echoing a trend towards tablet use in commercial airlines.
The move promises to improve efficiency and will allow aircrews access to flight publications both on and off the aircraft, according to Captain Kathleen Ferrero, a military spokeswoman.
The iPads the military has contracted to buy retail for $599 (with WiFi access and 32 GB of space). The Air Force is acquiring them at a discounted rate of around $520 per device.
Ferrero indicated that the award does not mean the Air Force will purchase all 18,000 devices. The number purchased will depend on funding requests and approval.
The 63 iPad 2s the Air Force has already bought from Executive Technology will be delivered within 30 days and will undergo testing.