The B-2 Stealth Bomber: Now a Victim of the Great Supply Chain Crisis? – You’ve heard a lot in recent months about chip shortages, but the Pentagon is dealing with a unique one.
According to a recent Bloomberg News report picked up by the Seattle Times, GlobalFoundries owns a factory in Fishkill, New York, which makes special chips for GPS-dependent systems, including the B-2 stealth bomber and other pieces of equipment. However, the factory was recently sold, and the facility’s incoming owner does not plan to continue making those chips.
Therefore, the Defense Department will spend about $2 billion in rush orders for those chips, as the B-2 stealth bomber is a critical weapons platform for the US Air Force.
The purchase “addresses a diminishing manufacturing capacity,” a Pentagon spokesperson recently told the newspaper. The Pentagon will have “enough time to process the requests and manufacture the parts before the production line shuts down.”
The first $885 million was included in the recent spending bill that was passed to avert a government shutdown. And per Bloomberg News, that was the only special request for defense spending placed as part of that bill, most of which consisted of funding at the same levels as in the previous year.
In addition to the B-2 stealth bomber, the chips in question are used for several other pieces of equipment, including “the Army and Marine Corps Joint Tactical Light Vehicle, the Army’s wheeled Stryker vehicle, the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the Air Force’s new Small Diameter Bomb II.”
On Semiconductor is purchasing the facility, which was once owned by IBM, from GlobalFoundries. That deal is scheduled to close in December.
“For certain programs and technologies, we are meeting the DoD’s needs by manufacturing large volumes of chips sufficient for the lifetime of the program,” GlobalFoundries told the newspaper in a statement. “In other instances, we are partnering with the DoD to extend the lifecycle of certain technologies manufactured at Fab 10 by transitioning the manufacturing of their chips to other GF Fabs.”
Chip shortages have been one of the more significant ones this year, especially affecting the sales of cars and other vehicles. However, as Nikkei reported this week, that shortage is beginning to show signs of easing, even if a return to full normalcy for that market is still a ways off.
“Inventories were up in value terms at the end of September at Japan’s Renesas Electronics, Dutch supplier NXP Semiconductors, Germany’s Infineon Technologies, Switzerland-based STMicroelectronics and U.S.-based Texas Instruments,” the Nikkei report Tuesday said. “With demand still running high, the outlook for the months ahead remains unclear. But the inventory upturn suggests that, thanks in part to chipmakers’ increased output, the supply constraints that forced car companies to halt assembly lines through the summer are easing.”
Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.