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Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 01:11 pm PT (04:11 pm ET)

US Air Force may buy 18,000 Apple iPads for cargo aircraft

The U.S. Air Force's Air Mobility Command recently put out a notice that it plans to buy as many as 18,000 of Apple's iPad for use on cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster.

The Air Mobility Command's planned purchase could prove to be the largest single federal order for iPad 2 units, according to Nextgov. The site spotted the AMC's plans in a Federal Business Opportunities posting, where it revealed it plans to buy a "minimum of 63 and a maximum of 18,000 iPad 2" units or "equal devices."

Though the iPad was the only tablet named specifically in the listing, Lt. Col. Glen Roberts, AMC public affairs director, said the command seeks "a tablet device" but "not necessarily an iPad."

The Air Force seeks proposals from tablet makers and seeks to obtain them at the lowest possible fixed price. A move to tablets, iPad or otherwise, would allow the AMC to adopt an electronic flight publication system to save time and money, as well as boost efficiency.

iPads have been taking to the skies ever since the Federal Aviation Admisitration signed off on the use of Apple's touchscreen tablet as an electronic flight bag last July. Previously, commercial and charter airlines relied on cumbersome 40-pound paper manuals.

That prompted major airlines, like American Airlines, to use the iPad as digital flight manual readers, replacing traditional paper charts. The move is expected to save the airline $1.2 million per year in fuel costs alone.