Intel, Qualcomm win deal to design 7nm silicon for US defense agencies

Chipzilla gets to make 'em and crow that it has a really prestigious foundry customer


The United States' National Security Technology Accelerator (NXTA) has picked Qualcomm and Intel to help it develop and construct chips for use by the nation’s military.

The two companies were jointly awarded work under the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes – Commercial (RAMP–C), an effort designed to ensure the Department of Defense (DoD) can source the chips it needs from a US-based fabrication facility, rather than relying on offshore plants.

The scheme also seeks design capabilities for the chips to be produced onshore, which is probably where Qualcomm comes into the picture seeing as it's a fabless company.

The DoD prefers its work be done onshore for security reasons, as it enjoys knowing exactly who made its kit and being able to observe chains of custody closely. The Department can also order rather small runs of product, often tweaking commercial-off-the-shelf kit – both to meet its needs and to present a different target to adversaries. Such orders are easier to arrange under arrangements like RAMP–C.

Intel's announcement of its win omits any mention of Qualcomm but does mention its other partners and suppliers. The announcement also focusses on the deal being a sign that Chipzilla's relaunched foundry business is on the right track.

It's right to do so because RAMP–C specifies access to <7nm fabrication processes, and Intel's record at that scale features missed deadlines and so did its initial 10nm efforts. That the DoD thinks Intel is on track is probably as good an endorsement as Intel can get. ®

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