Air Force chooses MacAulay Brown for new approaches to trusted computing microelectronics manufacturing

Ensuring that next-generation cutting-edge, and currently deployed microelectronics from commercial foundries are trusted, assured, and protected.

Jun 21st, 2019
Trusted Microelectronics21 June 2019

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers were trying to develop trusted computing microelectronics technologies to enable broader use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic components in military systems. They found their solution from MacAulay Brown Inc. in Dayton, Ohio.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, announced a $3.2 million contract to MacAulay Brown on Wednesday for the Assured and Trusted Microelectronics Solutions (ATMS) program.

The rapid improvement cycle for semiconductor technology and systems-on-a-chip (SoC) has made process and equipment upgrades very expensive, triggering state-of-the-art manufacturing foundry operations to consolidate into a few large companies mainly in Asia, Air Force researchers explain.

The resulting lack of trusted, U.S.-based foundries has become a significant concern for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) because commercial state-of-the-art foundries for defense-related application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) development may not meet security and trusted computing requirements.

Related: IBM to provide trusted and secure integrated circuit manufacturing to U.S. military in $275 million deal

For the ATMS program, MacAulay Brown experts will find ways to ensure that microelectronics from commercial foundries are trusted, assured, and protected. This applies to currently fielded microelectronics no longer in production; microelectronics in production; and next-generation cutting-edge microelectronics.

Trusted refers to confidence that there is no malicious content. Assured means microelectronics parts have verified function with no extra functions. Protected means these microelectronics parts can prevent unauthorized disclosures as to their designs.

MacAulay Brown experts will try to increase the availability of COTS trusted microelectronics that are sustainable and reliable across military mission lifetimes; ensure that military parts are purchased exactly as specified and without additions or alterations; and help maintain stringent IP protection during manufacturing and after fielding.

Ultimately, military leaders want MacAulay Brown to develop the ability to field COTS ASICs, systems-on-chip, and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) without putting military systems at risk. The goal is to enable rapid military system modernization and flexibility, increased performance, and less need for unique DOD systems.

Related: DARPA to brief industry on initiatives in trusted computing, secure chip use, semiconductor manufacturing

To do this, Air Force researchers are asking MacAulay Brown to develop technologies that have built-in trust measures; that accelerate circuit development for military systems, and ensure performance for DOD systems.

In addition Air Force researchers want the company to find ways to ensure that DOD maintains access to advanced and legacy integrated circuit technologies in the embedded computing design process.

Examples of embedded design assurance include mechanisms to ensure the integrity of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) FPGAs through 3PIP analysis, tools, and techniques of the FPGA hardware and bitstream; metrics for FPGA assurance; verification methods to ensure functions; traceability throughout the supply chain; and security circuit implementations and architectures.

MacAulay Brown experts also will pursue new microelectronics test and measurement technologies to verify the trust and assurance of components and systems. These could include embedded ASIC structures to assist in post fabrication analysis; high-volume technologies to characterize supply chain risk; non-destructive test techniques; algorithms to reduce analysis time; low-cost evaluation techniques; and fusion technologies that capitalize on several data sets.

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The company also will work on enhanced microelectronics fabrication and packaging at high-mix, low-volume foundries. This could involve how 3D and 2.5D packaging could help protect IP and assure trust; advanced integrated photonics; flexible hybrid manufacturing; and technologies that may provide additional security.

The ATMS program also involves new design, manufacturing, and assessment for trusted radiation-hardened electronics in next-generation strategic systems. This could include rad hard by design (RHBD) libraries and new ways to meet strategic radiation levels; dose rate radiation effects testing for COTS devices; radiation testing for FPGAs; and new ways to capitalize on commercial technology and COTS devices for high-reliability strategic-hardened applications.

The Air Force Research Lab may award additional ATMS contracts, and the total program could be worth as much as $25 million, researchers say.

For more information contact MacAulay Brown online at www.macb.com, or the Air Force Research Laboratory at www.wpafb.af.mil/afrl.

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