Air Force cancels iPad electronic flight bag program over GoodReader

The Air Force’s plan to use iPads as electronic flight bags in cargo planes, which I mentioned here, has hit a snag, and the Air Force has canceled an order for 2,861 iPad 2 devices. (The original story involved the Air Force purchasing 18,000 iPads. NextGov’s doesn’t have any word about what’s going to happen to the other 15,000. Perhaps the 2,861 was just the first order, so the others have been canceled as well.)

It turns out that someone remembered that PDF reader GoodReader, which was going to be used as part of the package, was developed in Russia.

Michael McCarthy, director of the Army’s smartphone project, Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications, based in Fort Bliss, Texas, told Nextgov last week he would not use software developed in Russia because he would not want to expose end users to potential risk.

It may seem like a bit of unnecessary paranoia (especially given that GoodReader is a damned good PDF reader app), but on the other hand given that this software would be involved in directing thousands of tons of aircraft through the air, it’s understandable that the Air Force would consider any risk at all to be a risk too great. An Air Force spokeswoman said that it would continue developing the program.

13 Comments on Air Force cancels iPad electronic flight bag program over GoodReader

  1. Actually, the first story said the air force would acquire “up to” 18,000 tablet devices (not necessarily ipads). And perhaps as few as 63 – the original test run batch. I would say this was the total order cancelled.

    Though, if they come up with a satisfactory app supplier, it may be reinstated, of course.

  2. So, they couldn’t use Adobe Reader? Or something else that reads pdf’s?

  3. Something’s missing here. There are a number of good PDF apps in the app store. I haven’t checked to see which ones are specifically not ITAR compliant, but it can’t be all of them.

    This will bean interesting story to follow.

  4. Couple more points: the “bean” in my prev. Post was supposed to be “be an”. Thank my iPad for the substitution.

    More on ITAR: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/itar-and-ear-compliance.html

    I’m not an ITAR expert – but I’ve had to become familiar with the broad strokes in my day job. Essentially, if it’s bound for US airspace and military in nature, then ITAR regulations will need to be observed.

  5. Jean – One suspects that the Air Force is not sourcing it’s software from the app store :) rather these iPads would be securely software locked and only use specific apps that have been previously checked and approved and installed during the acquisition process. Clearly GoodReader was the pdf app that was included in the acquisition package by Apple and the Air Force team that has gone through many months of assessment.

  6. I’m sure that whoever wrote GoodReader made absolutely sure to put in “electronically take over control of US military aircraft” code in there, just in case the USAF decided that it would use GoodReader in its aircraft at some future date.

  7. A friend of mine who holds a US gov’t security clearance and has worked for companies with government contracts notes that the US government, as a rule, does not allow the use of apps developed anywhere outside the US to view classified information. The reasons for that are actually pretty obvious when you think about it.

  8. You have to be kidding. This is ridiculous. They are not going to buy and use the iPad because GoodReader was was created in Russia…well they are wrong about that anyway. It was created in Ukraine. The App is the best PDF app in on the iPad, but no means the only one. I have six of them on my iPad. One of the great things about GoodReader is that developer is always trying to improve the application. He is responsive to your eMails and loves to hear feedback, especially when things are not going well. I hope the Air Force changes their minds. Short sightedness is was is ruining this nation.

  9. DD – I agree .. you really have to laugh….

  10. I love Good Reader. If the Ukranians are monitoring my iPad, they must be bored out of their minds over the pdfs I choose to read. Too hilarious!

  11. Mary – Maybe you are subconsciously a ‘sleeper’, brainwashed and planted by the Russians when you were a child. When the right day comes, GoodReader will flash a code word on the screen and you’ll turn into a killer spy ready to infiltrate and destroy the US Government … !

  12. Howard, some cause for concern on my GoodReader might be the plethora of World War I maps I have there for when I am reading books about that war. Possibly they think I am planning a strategic attack, since I do have the eastern front as well as the western.

  13. These iPads are unclassified and it sounds like the documents they are looking at are not of national security. I think this is some reporter trying to make a problem out eof nothing. Well I guess it worked…

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