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Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

US Army wants to equip all soldiers with an Apple iPhone or Android phone

The U.S. Army is interested in giving each of its soldiers a smartphone, and may give them a choice between Apple's iPhone or one running Google Android.

As reported this week by ArmyTimes, the Army is considering making a smartphone a standard piece of equipment in a soldier's bag. Based on the proposal, the Army would even pay the soldier's monthly phone bill.

Army-issued phones are already used in a variety of fashions through the Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications program. But the next step, reportedly already in testing, is to deploy smartphones in war zones.

The Army's interest in technology isn't limited to Apple's iPhone either. Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss, said the organization is also looking at ways to potentially implement Apple's iPad, the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader, or even mini-projectors.

The idea is to make it easier for soldiers to access data and receive updates on the go, no matter where they are. Devices like the iPhone are powerful and portable enough that the Army believes they will fit the bill for soldiers.

"At war, smart phones would let soldiers view real-time intelligence and video from unmanned systems overhead, and track friends and enemies on a dynamic map..." the report reads. "But the Army must first work through the complex task of securing the data and the network before it sanctions smart phones on the battlefield."

The plan, called "far from definitive," will fit commercial phones like the iPhone into special antenna sleeves, allowing them to link to the Army's network via a "patchwork of ground stations and airborne nodes." It was said that the program has support from some of the Army's highest ranking officials, including Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli.

Army officials visited Apple's campus in Cupertino, Calif., earlier this year to discuss the company's forthcoming products. The organization has shown interest for some time in embracing Apple's products, with officials in May noting that the "it just works" philosophy of the company caught the Army's eye.

In 2008, it was revealed that the military had employed custom iPods for on-the-spot translating in Iraq. The new method offered soldiers the ability to translate with technology a fraction of the size and cost of the previously utilized technology.

The Army has also used Macs in its IT infrastructure to deter potential hacking attempts, and in 2009 implemented Apple hardware for video surveillance installations. The Mac hardware was selected, officials said, for security purposes.