Mission Critical: Memory Components for Defense Applications

By SMARTsemi
June 27, 2023

When the CHIPS+ Act was passed last year, $2 billion of the $54.2 billion investment was designated specifically for the American Defense Fund. The CHIPS+ Act aims to strengthen the US’s leadership position in the semiconductor industry by increasing domestic chip manufacturing and accelerating R&D efforts. The fact that the defense industry is paramount for national security makes it an important driver in positioning the US as the world leader in the chip industry, despite it not being the biggest market for semiconductors. Managed by the US Department of Defense (DoD), the American Defense Fund is set to invest CHIPS+ Act money in the next five years to advance microelectronics for DoD-unique applications.

Be prepared

The global chip shortage and the war in Ukraine exposed weaknesses in the supply chain of leading US defense contractors. Even though the IC supply chain has more or less recovered, the defense industry is not letting its guard down. Just last week, missile manufacturer Lockheed Martin secured its semiconductor supply for defense applications in the US through a strategic collaboration with GlobalFoundries. When it comes to defense equipment, trust, reliability, and security are critical for the semiconductor components used as well as the supplier they are sourced from.

Under all circumstances

While cost and availability primarily drive component qualification for commercial electronics applications, performance is often the number one criterium in defense applications. Defense equipment is designed to withstand exposure to harsh environments for extended periods, which applies to the embedded components as well. It is not unusual for defense application hardware to be in service for twenty to thirty years exposed to the elements. The impact of extreme temperatures, humidity, vibrations, shock, and altitude cannot alter the performance of the embedded components in that lifetime. The selected components should withstand and be tested for these conditions, for example, wide temperature grade to survive very hot and cold weather.

Memory components embedded in defense applications must be reliable, secure, and rugged. A broad spectrum of military equipment relies on DRAM and FLASH components for secure fast data access and erasing. Defense applications like satellites, surveillance systems, mapping tools, telemetry, and guidance systems benefit from memory components that have low power consumption and that are small and light when used in the field.

Long game

Longevity is key when designing defense applications on the level of the components themselves, as well as the manufacturer they are sourced from. Since most devices are in the field for over a decade, the embedded components should perform reliably during that lifetime. Military equipment is used in a context where operational reliability is a matter of life and death, and replacements or repairs in the field are cumbersome. As a long-life application, the tools should not be equipped with the latest innovation but instead mature technologies like DDR3 and DDR4 that are thoroughly tested and field-proven. The testing and certification required for defense applications are rigorous. Because of that reality, updating or redesigning systems is a long process. Extending the product’s lifecycle starts with the selection and sourcing of the most suitable system components from a reliable supplier that can offer long-term support.

SMARTsemi is your supply chain partner for DRAM components, eMMC solutions, and SD/microSD Flash Memory Cards for long-life applications. With 20+ years of industry experience, we understand your challenges and have aligned our priorities with yours to simplify your memory chip supply chain for the long run. We know what you need before you need it. Get a jump start and request a sample today.

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Established over 20 years ago, SMARTsemi is a Line of Business of SMART Modular Technologies, Inc. that globally manufactures and delivers millions of memory components annually for embedded medical, robotics, communications, industrial, defense, home entertainment applications and standard, ruggedized, and custom memory and storage solutions in high-growth markets. When you think memory, think SMART. When you’re sourcing memory components, select SMARTsemi.