Maj. Earl Arnold, 12th Flying Training Wing electronic flight bag program manager, does preflight checks on a T-6 Texan using an electronic flight bag at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

How the Air Force Secures and Customizes Its Mobile Solutions

The service branch's Air Mobility Command uses enterprise mobility management software and specialized apps as part of a holistic mobile strategy.

The Air Force’s mobile strategy involves a great deal more than just giving pilots and other crew members tablets. 

Since 2010, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC), which provides airlift and aerial refueling for the armed forces and conducts humanitarian support missions, has been pursuing its Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) initiative. Since then, it has equipped 18,000 air crew members with Apple iPad devices. 

The AMC has also focused on securing those devices and creating customized mobile applications that help Air Force personnel perform their jobs more efficiently. 

SIGN UP: Get more news from the FedTech newsletter in your inbox every two weeks!

Electronic Flight Bags Deliver Savings for the Air Force 

In the past, when crew members arrived at their squadrons, each person received a bag full of books weighing as much as 120 pounds to carry on board the aircraft. (The number of crew members per mission varies, but it’s always more than one person.)

Now each crew member receives his or her own iPad that contains all the paper documentation in PDF format. The material includes technical orders that cover every single nut, bolt or rivet on an aircraft, plus instructions and manuals on how to operate an aircraft, says Master Sgt. Joseph Pinkerton, command C-5 evaluator loadmaster and a project manager of the EFB program.

It’s more information than they could carry in the old flight bag. “We are able to reduce hundreds of thousands of pages to a single electronic device,” he says.

The use of the iPad reduces aircraft weight and results in $780,000 in fuel savings per year. The move also cuts $3.7 million annually from the cost of printing and distributing paper, says Col. Terrence Adams, AMC’s CIO and director of communications.

The Air Force Secures iPads with EMM Software 

The AMC is managing and securing its deployment of iPads with enterprise mobility management software, a suite of applications that lets the IT staff centrally configure and control the tablets.

IT staffers can locate tablets if they are lost or stolen and remotely wipe them if necessary, says Master Sgt. Troy Wilkerson, the EFB information system security manager.

“That turns them into a brick,” he says.

The command, which standardized on the BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suite, uses a number of security features, including requiring users to enter passcodes to access the devices. The IT staff also provides extensive user education on security best practices.

Air Mobility Command Builds New Apps for Flight Crews

When the AMC equipped air crew members with tablets, IT leaders realized they could go beyond creating electronic flight bags by also providing crews with mobile apps that allow them to work more effectively and efficiently.

The command, for example, sometimes evacuates injured crew members from hostile areas to hospitals. One app allows medical personnel to quickly analyze a patient’s medication and determine whether new medications could result in adverse reactions, says Pinkerton.

“To be able to do that on the fly on an electronic device within seconds could mean the difference between life and death,” he says.

U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell
Aug 06 2018