February 22, 2012, 1:29 PM — The U.S. Air Force has abruptly cancelled a plan to buy nearly 3,000 iPad 2 tablets, just days after a news site raised questions about including a Russian-developed app for encrypting and reading documents.
The original plan, posted in late December on the Federal Business Opportunities website, was to buy 2,861 iPad 2 machines to be used as electronic flight bags carrying digital versions of charts and technical manuals. The procurement specified the use of GoodReader, a popular iPad document reader developed by a Moscow, Russia software developer, Yuri Selukoff, of Good.iware. The same application, which has been well-reviewed by bloggers and tech sites, has been used in two other similar deployments, one for Alaska Airlines and another for Delta.
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In this case, the iPads would be used by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), which maintains a fleet of surveillance aircraft and helicopter gunships, according to reporting by NextGov, which is part of the National Journal Group and the Atlantic Media Company, and covers IT management in the federal government.
Bloomberg this week reported about what seems to be a separate but similar Air Force project, that could eventually total 18,000 iPad 2 tablets, also being used to store flight documentation.
So far the Air Force has not offered any explanation for the cancellation.
But the cause may have been inquiries last week by NextGov's Bob Brewin, who drew attention to the use of Russian software on a Chinese-manufactured tablet for use by special operations pilots and crew. Brewin's story was published Feb. 17. In it, he noted that AFSCO specified the use of GoodReader: "Device must be capable of using the GoodReader application, which meets mission security and synchronization requirements. Operation of this application requires the iOS operating system and its inherent security features."