Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Image source Freepik
Integrated circuits play key roles in the running of military and aerospace technologies.
It was estimated that the use of semiconductor in military and aerospace was valued at $6.3 billion. These figures have been on upward trajectory and by 2030 it is expected to hit $12.9 billion. This is a proof that the semiconductor chips have big roles to play in the military and aerospace industries.
They are used for running different types of devices such as communication, navigation systems, flight control systems, avionic devices, missile systems among many others that we are going to discuss in this guide.
Classification of IC chips for military and aerospace
The IC chip role in military and aerospace is divided into different categories depending on the type of IC primary purpose of the chip, the technology used to run the chip, the specific application areas of the chip and even on the region in which the chip is used.
In terms of the chip types, we have sensors, memory chips, security chips, AI chips, opto-electronics, analog chips, communication chips.
On the basis of the technology used, the chips can either be surface mount technology or through-hole technology.
For the application areas, we can divided the IC chips into communication ICs, navigation ICs imaging chips, radar chips.
What about the regions? Given the sensitivity nature of the military and aerospace, sale of these chips is limited to the regions. These can be Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, Middle East among others.
Applications of IC chips in aerospace and defense technology
Let’s look at the specific application in which IC chips are used in the areas of aerospace and defense. From the applications, you will know the roles of the integrated circuits in these two areas.
IC chips used in navigation systems
Navigation is all about accurate movement from one location to another. There are specialized chips used I guiding the navigation of defense systems and aircraft from the source to the destinations.
The chips send and process signals to the satellite technologies to get accurate data about locations.
Navigation is also vital in guiding military devices such as drones. All these is possible because of the power of the IC chips.
Use of IC in communication
Both aerospace and defense areas are characterized with constant communications. This is made possible by the presence of integrated circuits. Here the chips must provide reliable and secure ways of data exchange.
The ICs used in these to areas have high-levels of security features such as encryption systems. The ICs should also be able to function well in harsh conditions.
Use of IC chips for cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is part of the modern warfare. It makes part of the defense system such that the warring parties must always protect their data from hackers. Security ICs are designed to provide such protection.
The chips also protect devices and network from all forms of cyber threats.
Radar systems are used in both the defense and aerospace industries. Radar is all about precise detection of objects. These systms have special IC chips that execute the functions of signal transmission, reception and signal analysis.
Avionics is all about the electronics that control movement of aircraft in the space. It encompasses elements such as navigation, flight monitoring systems, communication among others. At the root of the avionics are the integrated circuits.
Increase in military expenditure
Image source Military Aerospace
A key factor that is having a major impact on the role of IC chips in military and aerospace is the ever-rising budget in military. Major players in in the worlds geopolitical arena have increased their expenditure on the military and aerospace.
These countries include the US, China, Russia, India, Iran, Germany and many others.
They are spending a huge chunk of money on advanced aerospace and defence systems.
All these activities are fueled by the need to boost their securities from internal and external threats.
For example, they need powerful surveillance systems to monitor the activities of their enemies. High -tech security systems can provide protection against internal threats such as terrorism.
According to a research published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the US used up to $801 billion on military alone in 2021.In the same year, China used up to $293 on military.
Countries in Europe region have equally upped their game in terms of military budget. The same report by SIPIRI reports that there was a growth of 5% in terms of spending by countries in Europe with Russia and Germany being at the forefront. Other small countries in the region have also been spending more on military than before.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is a major motivating factor on the military budget in Europe and beyond. We have witnessed small countries in the region such as Poland and Hungary increasing their defense budget.
As countries continue upgrading their military and defense systems, the demand for the IC chips will keep going up.
Market forecast for semiconductor in military and aerospace
From various data sources, Europe seems to be at the forefront when it comes to the semiconductor market for military and aerospace.
The leading countries in this rush include Germany, the UK, Italy, and France. Other countries such as Sweden and Netherlands are also making serious progress in undertaking projects that require advanced semiconductor chips.
A hike in the military spending is a major motivating factor for the good numbers. A perfect example is the Netherlands which has been increasing its defense budget in the recent years by over 5%.
However North America still remains to be the largest market of the IC chips for military and aerospace. Europe comes second then Asia-pacific region takes the third position.
Upgrading and modernization of aircraft
The aerospace side has not been left behind when it comes to budget allocation. It has equally been receiving a good share just like the defense industry.
Countries in different geographical regions have been upgrading their fleets of aircraft.
IA perfect example is France which in 2019 upgraded its Rafale fleet of aircrafts with the F4. The new fleet boosted of an array of advanced systems such as better radar sensors, helmet-mounted display systems (HMDs), better optronics among other systems.The attack and defense systems of the aircraft were also upgraded.
Many other countries have the same thing when it comes to upgrading their air defense systems. Talk of the advanced features on drones and other unmanned flying vehicles.
Challenges of the chips for defense and aerospace
In as much as ASICs for defense and aerospace are in high demand, there are numerous challenges that are facing this industry. Some of them are beyond the control of the IC manufacturers.
One of the challenges are the regulations that manufacturers should follow when designing the chips. The sensitive nature of these two fields require all the players to stick to the regulations.
These regulations also tend to affect the supply chain of the integrated circuits. It can be quite hectic to fine the best suppliers for the military and aerospace chips.
Let’s not forget the semiconductor chip shortage that almost brought brought the entire sector down.
Another challenge is related to the process of designing and manufacturing the integrated circuits. Chips to be used for aerospace need to meet strict weight and size requirements. Such requirements tend to limit the manufacturing capabilities to the best manufacturers.
Semiconductor companies are abiding by the industry regulations
As we have mentioned, regulation is one of the major challenges that are affecting the semiconductors for military and aerospace.
This small market segment is so consolidated that there are very few players in it and they account for the 60% market share. This means that new players tend to have difficult time penetrating to the market that is already controlled.
The regulations also blocks the new players from getting the capital and expertise that is needed to develop high-spec IC chips to be used for defense and aerospace.
But again the regulations guarantee reliability and security of the IC chips for military and aerospace. For instance the United States require the devices to meet the Standardized Military Drawing (SMD) program that monitors the reliability of the electric devices used.
What are the future trends of IC chips in military and aerospace market?
The future of these two industries looks bright in every other aspect in respect to the integrated circuits.
We expect more expenditure in the two such that countries will set bigger budgets for the advanced military and aerospace systems.
We also expect newer technologies to be introduced in the industries. One of these technologies is artificial intelligence (AI). This technology will seem more of automated or self-driven and unmanned systems in the aerospace and military systems.
On the other hand, we should expect changes on the regulations that control the access to the chips used in the military and aerospace . For instance, some policies will be introduced to hinder specific entities from accessing certain chip technologies for safety and political reasons.
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