Earlier in February, the media reported that the U.S. Air Force wanted to buy thousands of Apple iPad tablets to replace the conventional flight bags carried by pilots. Nobody knows the exact number of iPads, the U.S. Air Force wanted to buy. Some say that the figure is 3,000. But to replace the flight bag of all the pilots in U.S. Air Force, 18,000 is still a small figure. That means a big business for Apple.

However, on Tuesday, a report surfaced on the Internet through NextGov.com that the U.S. Air Force has dumped its plans of ordering the iPads. There is no official reason offered for the sudden change in the decision. It is clear that the Air Force wanted to replace the traditional flight bags. Has it cancelled its plan to buy thousands of iPads because it is thinking of other alternatives? Might be an Android tablet or something else? Or they just want to carry on with the old flight bags?

The answer could lie in the use of GoodReader – a PDF reader developed by a Russian-based software company – Good.iware. GoodReader is widely accepted as the best PDF reader app for iOS. It features 256-bit AES encryption and costs $5. However, it looks like the Air Force is afraid of relying on Russian company, and also afraid of security breaches and malwares. Is a secret Cold War brewing?

There is no doubt that the U.S. Air Force is most concerned about security. However, Air Force Special Operations Command spokesperson Capt. Kristen Duncan said the cancellation is not because of the Russian-made PDF reader. It looks like that he is saying the truth as there are also alternatives to GoodReader, such as Adobe Reader, which is free and supports encryption too. PDF Reader Pro and PDF Expert are also some other good alternatives. So GoodReader cannot be a good justification for dumping the iPads.

The other possible reason could be because the U.S. government doesn’t want to draw itself into the controversy over how iPads and iPhones are manufactured and assembled in China. Apple’s largest manufacturing/assembling partner in China, Foxconn, has received a lot of flak recently over how it treats its workers. The hazardous working conditions and inhumane treatment of Foxconn workers by their employer was extensively covered by The New York Times.

These are all speculations, however. Still the facts are not clear why the U.S. Air Force dumped iPad order plans at a time when commercial airlines are thinking of surprising their pilots with electronic flight bags.

What do you think? Is it because of a secret Cold War that’s brewing or because of Foxconn controversy? Or could be some other reason? Leave your comments below.

(Reported by Johnny Wills, Edited by Surojit Chatterjee)