The effort, dubbed RAMP-C (short for Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes Commercial), was announced on Aug. 30. Financial terms of the deal were not available.
In announcing the awards to Qualcomm and Intel, the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL) noted the project’s importance for national security as well as for the supply chain. The bulk of worldwide semiconductor production is concentrated in Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea.
“There is currently no commercially viable option that can provide a U.S. located leading-edge foundry that can fabricate the assured leading-edge custom integrated circuits and Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) products required for critical DoD systems,” the NSTXL office said in a statement. “The purpose of the RAMP-C program is to incentivize such an option.”
Chip Geometries Get Smaller
The move will ensure the Pentagon will have access to the most advanced semiconductor designs, with circuits measuring less than 7 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, wide. That is about the scale of the double helix of human DNA, which is 2.5 nanometers in diameter. A typical sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
Qualcomm declined comment on the award. Intel issued an announcement that it will lead the first phase of the RAMP-C program to establish a domestic commercial foundry infrastructure. In March, Intel announced a $20 billion investment in two new factories in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area.
“One of the most profound lessons of the past year is the strategic importance of semiconductors, and the value to the United States of having a strong domestic semiconductor industry,” said a statement from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, distributed by the company.
The Defense Department is using a contract vehicle known as S2MARTS (the Strategic and Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems), developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division.