The Obsolescence Problem

Early US defense requirements were the driving force in the electronics industry and weapon systems were designed and manufactured using state-of-the-art microcircuits. These microcircuits were made to a strict set of military specifications designed to last for decades. As the consumer electronics industry has grown during the last quarter-century, the defense sector has been eclipsed and now accounts for less than 1% of the semiconductor market. The rapid changes in technology development, in accordance to Moore’s Law, has defined shorter microcircuit life cycles that are not compatible with the extended life cycle of Military systems. Defense microcircuit demand is neither a priority nor profitable to the global semiconductor industry given the low-volume and high-reliability requirements.

This change in focus, the long lifetime of military hardware, the increased pace of developments, and foreign manufacturing outsourcing has meant defense systems are prone to microcircuit part obsolescence and counterfeits. Defense system lifetimes are often extended, and if a single microcircuit is no longer available, it can render a complete weapon system useless. This puts these systems and the warfighter at significant risk.

In the late 1980’s, DLA recognized that microcircuit obsolescence threatened the readiness of many American defense systems. In 1987, DLA contracted with SRI to begin research and development on how to best replace obsolete microcircuits with standardized, modern integrated circuits (IC). DLA and SRI collaborated to develop the GEM Program. Using its on-site Trusted semiconductor foundry and deep knowledge of IC design/development, SRI produces on-demand, Class Q microcircuits matching the Form-Fit-Function-Interface (F3I) criteria of the required microcircuit. DLA is developing the next generation of F3I microcircuit Emulation capability through the AME Program to further alleviate growing IC obsolescence issues caused by the continued rapid advancements in technology. The new capabilities developed by AME are utilized by the GEM Program to ensure the Emulation Programs continue to meet weapons systems wide-ranging requirements. SRI’s semiconductor foundry is accredited as a Department of Defense (DoD) Trusted Foundry supplier, and our manufacturing processes are qualified to MIL-PRF-38535
The DLA’s microcircuit Emulation programs provide a permanent solution to microcircuit obsolescence DoD systems.

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