Intel Foundry ticks another box in quest to fab mil-spec chips for US DoD

Gelsinger and gang certified to court wider array of defense contractors

Intel's Foundry division is one step closer to manufacturing chips for military applications using its forthcoming 18A process node.

On Monday the x86 giant turned foundry upstart revealed it had entered the third phase of the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes Commercial program (RAMP-C) – a certification it's been pursuing since 2021 as it's necessary for foundries that cook chips for Uncle Sam.

"RAMP-C intends to demonstrate prototype production of Intel 18A chips in 2025 to deliver unprecedented processing performance for the DoD," explained Dev Shenoy, secretary of defense for research and engineering and DARPA's principal director for microelectronics, in a canned statement.

Last year, Intel entered phase two of the program and began working with Boeing and Northrop Grumman to design and tape out chips based on the upcoming 18A process node. With phase three certification in hand, Intel can now work with a broader ecosystem of RAMP-C customers.

Intel is, of course, no stranger to government contracts. It's previously built prototype parts for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and its Xeon CPUs and GPUs are present in the Department of Energy's Aurora Supercomputer.

But Intel also aspires to make chips designed by other military contractors in its Foundry division.

The announcement comes just over a month after Intel Foundry received $8.5 billion in funding under the US CHIPS Act, alongside another $11 billion in loan guarantees, to support the construction of its fab projects in Arizona and Ohio.

Intel is also said to be building a "secret enclave" to produce chips for the US military – though the Pentagon's commitment to the project has been called into doubt.

However, when it comes to supplying Uncle Sam with leading edge chips, Intel has been a shoo-in from the get-go. As we've previously reported, GlobalFoundries' decision to abandon development of its 7nm process tech in 2018 left Intel as the only US chipmaker capable of producing leading edge silicon domestically.

GlobalFoundries remains a key supplier of older process tech – late last year, it scored a ten-year $3.1 billion contract to produce chips for use in aerospace and defense. As you might imagine, there's still plenty of military applications that don't need the absolute latest. ®

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