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Apple, 161 other organizations lend aid to Pentagon on flexible electronics

Apple has reportedly joined the FlexTech Alliance, a collection of 162 organizations working with the Pentagon on flexible sensor electronics capable of being worn by soldiers, or molded to the outside of vehicles.

Other Alliance partners include major names like Boeing and Harvard, and lesser-known entities like Advantest Akron Polymer Systems and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Reuters said on Friday. U.S. military officials explained that rapid technological advancement has prompted them to turn to the private sector instead of solo development.

The federal government is contributing $75 million to the project over the course of five years, while private companies will add another $90 million under the oversight of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Local governments will pour in still more taxpayer money, bringing the total to $171 million.

An office called the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub is being established San Jose, California, the seventh of nine institutes planned by the Obama administration to spur U.S. manufacturing sectors. Several of them are linked to the military.

Apple's possible role in the project is uncertain, since it could theoretically offer both hardware and software expertise, and has had relatively few dealings with the American military. In 2010, for instance, U.S. Army leaders visited Apple's Cupertino campus to discuss development and deployment opportunities. 2013 saw the Pentagon approve iOS for government networks.

The company could already be developing flexible electronics however, as in January it was awarded a U.S. patent on a bendable device similar to an iPhone. Any real-world product would likely be years away from shipping, but might be helped along by FlexTech research.