Intel Wins Pentagon Contract for Microchip Production
The Defense Department on Thursday announced a multi-billion partnership with Intel to boost the domestic manufacturing of microchips amid a global shortage. The project, known as SAHARA, is part of a broader effort to reduce America’s reliance on foreign-made chips many fear could be hacked by China.
“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,” says Randhir Thakur, president of Intel Foundry Services.
With $37 billion from the Biden Administration and an undisclosed sum from the Pentagon, Intel and DoD experts will work directly with researchers at the universities of Maryland, Florida, and Texas A&M to boost production of the speciality microchips used in defense systems.
Researchers will use “rigorous verification, validation, and new attack strategies to test the security of these chips” in order to ensure that data is protected against reverse engineering and counterfeiting, said Intel.
SAHARA also seeks to speed up the process of converting field-programmable gate array chips into the application-specific circuits the Pentagon prefers to use.
Converting the chips manually is a “complex, lengthy, and costly process, making it difficult to justify the economic burden at the volume of custom chips required by DoD applications,” added Intel. Successful automation of the conversion process will greatly decrease design time, engineering cost, and power consumption while enhancing security.
As part of the project, Intel will invest $20 billion in the construction of two new factories in Arizona and may purchase other chipmakers.