Replacing Paper with PDAs

James Dunnigan, author of How to Make War, has several bits on how the military is using technology to radically improve its combat support capability:

The maintenance and instruction manuals for the F-16 fighter amount to 50,000 pages of words, pictures and illustrations. Noting that the navy began putting most of its aircraft (and ship) maintenance manuals on CDROMs in the late 1990s, the F-16s manufacturer is following the trend. The F-16 manuals will be available online, and easily downloadable to laptops or PDAs. Troops are finding PDAs very handy for carrying data, especially when out in the field, or out maintaining vehicles. The manuals have been prepared electronically for several decades, so cutting out the printing process saves millions of dollars in expense and makes it easier to update the manuals as well. Hundreds of tons of manuals will no longer be needed.

The U.S. Navy is using the Internet to cut shipboard maintenance costs, and make crews capable of making more extensive repairs while having fewer sailors on the ships. Warship crews have long been capable of undertaking substantial repairs at sea. Since antiquity, this was a matter of survival. Ancient mariners could, if need be, build them selves a new (smaller) ship to get themselves out of a shipwreck situation. When metal ships came along in the late 19th century, the self-repair tradition continued, with crews containing electricians, machinists, plumbers and metal workers. But ships are increasingly automated, and cost pressure is forcing navies to reduce crew size. The solution is the Internet, which crews can perform maintenance and repairs by working with teams of experts via Internet connections. Shipboard equipment is expensive to maintain, with 30 percent of the total lifetime cost of equipment the development and manufacture of the gear, with the rest being maintenance and repairs over the life of the equipment. Network based maintenance and repair can cut the post-manufacture costs by 15 percent. All of this is not a new development. Equipment has increasingly been equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities (as do all automobiles and many appliances), and it was a natural progression to plug the diagnostic computers contained in shipboard equipment to a network based system that can do a more thorough analysis, and then connect highly skilled technicians ashore to assist the sailor on the spot with repairs. This new system will help morale as well. No longer will sailors be all alone with a particularly tricky repair job, and senior technicians can look forward to longer periods ashore, manning network help teams for helping shipboard repair problems anywhere on the planet.

More at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Question: About 3 times I have seen a “more” on a post that when clicked revealed only an ad. Is that intentional? It does not seem like something you would do.

    I assume it is an unintended side effect of the ad script.

    Anyway it is getting maddening to click a “more” only to be spammed. Any way to make sure if there is a “more” there is content?



  2. M. Murcek says:

    I hope their PDAs have better batteries than mine. I’d never trust life-critical stuff like battle plans or fighter plane repair manuals to a machine that goes back to an out-of-the-box state if left unused for a day and a half.

    I can hardly stand to use the thing, and I’m a geek.