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ACF Blog- March 2023
Reuse or refuse!
For many years defence contractors have considered but not extensively put into practice the reuse of electronics which have already been assembled. These electronics may never have been used, may be of older technology which is inherently more robust because of its feature size, for example that would make the device more radiation tolerant.
From a commercial perspective it is more likely that the parts will have been procured from the manufacturer or their franchised distributor when the supply chain was not so stretched as it currently is.
The current supply chain shortages has required new thinking and the challenging of old practices.We may gain new understanding of the robustness of semiconductors and the processes to reuse them safely.
It is quite possible to detach and reattach even the most complex electronics several times without any deterioration in performance.
The following article published in September describes one contractor’s experience.
As semiconductor shortages linger, one defense firm gets creative
“Defense firm L3Harris Technologies says it bought back and cannibalized its own radios to meet customer demands amid shortages of computer chips and some components.
The company and others across multiple sectors have been hampered by a semiconductor shortage that stretches back nearly two years. Industry executives said they expect supply chain challenges to last longer than originally anticipated and that the chip shortage will drag into mid-2023 or beyond — potentially forcing businesses to get creative.
Speaking at a Morgan Stanley event last week, L3Harris Chief Financial Officer Michelle Turner
said a “big-name chip supplier” she did not identify wasn’t able to meet her firm’s demand heading into the fiscal quarter that began in July. That forced the company to find circuits, called field-programmable gate arrays, from an unusual source.
“We went to one of our customers, where we knew they were disposing of some old radios. We took those radios back; we broke them down. We are using the [field-programmable gate arrays] within those radios to rebuild them into the current formation, to be able to meet the demand and deliver,” Turner said.
L3Harris, also known for making intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance gear; avionics; and night vision equipment, considers the chip shortage “an acute pain point,” Turner said. Wider supply problems, she said, have forced the company to stockpile products in its supply chain to ensure it can ship its wares quickly, she told the Morgan Stanley conference.
The chief executive of America’s No. 2 defense firm Raytheon Technologies, said microchips could continue to be scarce beyond mid-2023.
Defense officials said earlier this year production of Raytheon’s Javelin and Stinger missiles, a key part of U.S. aid for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, has been hamstrung by persistent semiconductor manufacturing delays. The Javelin anti-tank weapon is made by a joint venture with Lockheed Martin.
“That’s been a problem, that DoD’s vendors depend on the same chip suppliers as everyone else,” Clark said. “These foundries are incentivized to do large-scale commercial work because that’s where they can make a lot of money … which meant that in some cases DoD vendors were having to wait in line behind commercial firms.”