Pilots look for palm-size display

The Air Force is shopping for palm-size displays to help B-1 bomber pilots who stray off their pre-programmed courses.

The Air Force needs a display to connect to a Global Positioning System receiver and has experimented with laptop computers. Laptops, however, blocked some instruments and proved too big for the bomber cockpit.

John Gilligan, the Air Force deputy chief information officer, said Maj. Gen. Michael Mushala, who oversees the bomber fleet, contacted him last week about the matter.

"The operational need is that we preplan the flight route," Gilligan said. "If for whatever reason, the crew finds they're off the route, they need to get directions, so to speak, on how to get back on the route. With a GPS receiver, you can find out where you are and compare it, but the crew needs to see that information up in the cockpit."

The service seeks to spend less than $1 million on the displays, and Gilligan said the purchase indicates an important trend.

"This is something that we could potentially go down to the computer store and buy," Gilligan said after his speech Aug. 28 at the Air Force Information Technology Conference in Montgomery, Ala. "It's not something that is a big buy, per se, but it is the seeking of some commercial availability developed in the IT world but now relative to our weapon platforms."

In the past, the Air Force would have spent a few years and millions of dollars developing a device and integrating it onto the aging B-1 platform, Gilligan said.

"The intent is to use thousands of dollars on a commercial capability. ncreasingly, down the road, I think we're going to see more of that," Gilligan said.

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