The U.S. Air Force awarded a $9.36 million contract to buy as many as 18,000 Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPad 2s in one of the military’s largest orders of computer tablets.
Air Mobility Command announced the award today to Executive Technology Inc., a Phoenix-based computer services company, Captain Kathleen Ferrero, a military spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview.
Taking a cue from commercial airlines, the service will use the tablets to replace the bags of paper manuals and navigation charts carried by pilots and navigators.
“Aircrews fly nonstop worldwide missions and require access to flight publications both on and off the aircraft, throughout all phases of flight,” Ferrero said in an e-mail. The so-called electronic flight bags will help crews operate more effectively and safely, and support the Pentagon’s efficiency goals, she said.
Air Mobility Command, based at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, provides transport and refueling services to the U.S. military using C-5, C-17 and C-130 cargo planes and KC-10 and KC-135 tankers.
The type of iPad the command is buying retails for $599, Ferrero said. The Air Force would buy it at a discount for about $520 a device, she said. The product comes with wireless connectivity and 32 gigabytes of memory, she said.
The contract allows the Air Force to buy as many as 18,000 of the devices within a year of the award date, which was yesterday, Ferrero said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll purchase all 18,000,” she said. “It’s contingent upon funding requests and approval.”
The Air Force has already bought 63 iPad 2s from Executive Technology, Ferrero said. The devices will be delivered within 30 days and undergo testing, she said.
The competition drew 24 proposals from interested companies, Ferrero said. She wouldn’t name the companies or say whether Cupertino, California-based Apple responded to the request. The command’s decision was based in part on the lowest- priced offer, she said.
“It was open to everybody,” she said. “We weren’t going to any specific vendor.”
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