Keeping Defense Platforms Alive in a World of Decreasing Semiconductor Availability

Originally, defense was the main driver of semiconductor design, and the two industries aligned well. In the decades since, the semiconductor business has become dominated by the needs of the commercial sector, with defense usually an afterthought. One consequence of this is that the availability of many commercial semiconductor parts useful to the defense industry can be measured in months, or at most a handful of years. This has a profound impact on the defense industry. In parallel, many countries are also choosing to extend the working life of big defense platforms rather than invest in ground-up replacements.

Taken together, these two trends make the sourcing of semiconductors over the long term a major worry. This mismatch is illustrated in Figure below, where the phases are typically measured in decades. To compound the pain, a significant trend is that many semiconductor manufacturers that formerly supplied the defense and space markets are abandoning the segments in favor of easier, higher volume opportunities such as 5G telecom. This only makes the sourcing of semiconductors worse. Note that even for new platforms, the time delay between component selection and ramping to volume will be significantly beyond the availability of most commercial parts, so that chip availability impacts new platforms as well.

This paper looks at ways of successfully managing the supply of critical semiconductor parts over the long-term using Teledyne e2v’s Semiconductor Lifecycle Management (SLiM™) program.

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