Combat gear of the 21st century American soldier: One 5.56mm M16A4 combat rifle, two M67 fragmentation hand grenades, 60 rounds ammunition, full metal jacket… and an iPod?
Believe it. According to Newsweek, the iPod Touch (and also the iPhone) are increasingly being used by the U.S. military in combat and special forces scenarios. Apple’s (AAPL) devices have a combination of wide uses and low cost that make it attractive handheld device to the modern soldier.
Software developers and the U.S. Department of defence are developing military software for iPods that enables soldiers to display aerial video from drones and have teleconferences with intelligence agents halfway across the globe. Snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan now use a “ballistics calculator” called BulletFlight, made by the Florida firm Knight’s Armament for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Army researchers are developing applications to turn an iPod into a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot). In Sudan, American military observers are using iPods to learn the appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leaders.
Translation is another important area. A new program, Vcommunicator, is now being issued to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It produces spoken and written translations of Arabic, Kurdish and two Afghan languages. It also shows animated graphics of accompanying gestures and body language, and displays pictures of garments, weapons and other objects. Procurement officials are making a “tremendous push” to develop and field militarily useful Apple devices, says Ernie Bright, operations manager of Vcom3D, the Florida firm that developed the software.