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Air Force swaps BlackBerrys for Apple devices

Modernization involves 5,000 handhelds - for now

Feb. 19, 2014 - 05:07PM   |  
The Air Force is replacing 5,000 BlackBerry devices with Apple products.
The Air Force is replacing 5,000 BlackBerry devices with Apple products. (Air Force Illustration)
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The Air Force is replacing 5,000 of its BlackBerry devices with Apple smartphones, in a broader move to eradicate the legacy devices in favor of more modern commercial technologies.

Eventually, all Air Force mobile users will be required to trade in their old BlackBerrys for Apple devices or other approved smartphones and tablet computer, the Air Force said in a Feb. 14 announcement.

“In order to keep costs down and save on network resources, BlackBerrys will be turned in and shut off once the user is transitioned to an iOS device,” Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, communications director for Air Force Space Command, said in a statement.

Any new BlackBerry provisioned after Jan. 1 will require a waiver from AFSPC/A6, Wooten said.

Initially, the Air Force will focus on replacing BlackBerrys and executive users and enabling about 5,000 iOS devices for use. The Air Force didn’t say whether these devices will be supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency’s new mobile device management software, but it’s likely that DISA will play a role in centrally managing Air Force devices.

Last month, DISA said it is working with Air Mobility Command to connect devices to the network. Mobility pilots have been in place across Air Force Space Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air Combat since October 2011.

“The pilot tests we have run have shown positive results with the user communities,” Wooton said. “However, we’ve only scratched the surface. As the number of users grows, we’re confident our airmen will find new and innovative ways to enhance operations and job effectiveness.”

Balancing security and functionality of the devices will be key.

Each Air Force Major Command will be able to provision an accelerated amount of devices per month, until their allocated licenses are used, the Air Force said. Mobile device users are encouraged to reach out to their MAJCOM mobile point of contact to start replacing their BlackBerrys.

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