Keeping important technologies under British (and Western in general) control

Yokel

LE
This thread was always going to be a bit confused, as it is trying to discuss industrial and technical capabilities that we really must have, and ones we need to try to keep out of hostile hands. Hopefully you will not object to me posting a picture that @Graculus posted on the Ukraine thread:

1650725097831-png.657431


Does anyone know what British company makes and exports HF transistors? Do they produce other discrete semiconductors as well?
 
This thread was always going to be a bit confused, as it is trying to discuss industrial and technical capabilities that we really must have, and ones we need to try to keep out of hostile hands. Hopefully you will not object to me posting a picture that @Graculus posted on the Ukraine thread:

1650725097831-png.657431


Does anyone know what British company makes and exports HF transistors? Do they produce other discrete semiconductors as well?
Semelab Ltd., part of TT Electronics. Look up their web sites for product lists.

Stick any of those part numbers plus a description into Google (e.g. D2002UK transistor) and you will get a distributor listing which in turn should tell you whose product it is.

The problem with any specific component however is that although you may know where the company headquarters is you don't know where the specific parts are made. Many formerly independent companies have been bought up by multinationals who strip out all the IP, shut down manufacturing and outsource it elsewhere, and turn the company itself into just a distributor channel. They generally don't want the manufacturing assets, they just want the patents, product catalogue, distributor channel, and customer base. The only way you will know where something is actually made is to get inside company information, which is generally highly confidential.
 

Yokel

LE
I did think of using Google to check component numbers - but I was not looking that closely. I am sure that any safety critical application would involve traceability. Surely the original company retains ownership of the design and other intellectual property?

I suppose that it would not be too hard to search for British semiconductor manufacturers.
 

Yokel

LE
I hope that manufacturers and other companies are taking the time to examine supply chains and consider alternatives. Not only is this about resilience, it is an opportunity to improve products and processes. Take thik example:

Norfolk manufacturer turns supply chain challenge into innovation opportunity - The Manufacturer

With longer lead-times threatening to impact on the availability of their products, gas measurement specialists Chell Instruments looked to alternative suppliers and conducted a wider review of the components it uses within its technology.

“Though we hadn’t experienced any serious delays, we took the decision to pre-empt any disruption by evaluating alternative microprocessors and suppliers” says Jamie Shanahan, Sales Director of Chell Instruments.

The global supply of computer chips has been adversely impacted by the pandemic, with a drop in manufacturing caused by lockdowns, particularly in Asia, followed by a rise in demand as markets in Europe and North America have recovered.

“We pride ourselves on using the best components to give our customers the critical dependability and precision they need” adds Jamie.

“It turned into an opportunity to do a root-and-branch review and evaluate some alternatives which have ended up improving not only supply, but also functionality and future capabilities.”

Chell Instruments designs, manufactures and calibrates testing apparatus used in areas including Formula One, aircraft design and pharmaceuticals. Its high-tech products incorporate a wide range of microchips and microprocessors.

As well as avoiding major supply issues, back-to-back comparison of key microprocessors has further improved performance and Chell Instruments’ ability to develop the capabilities of existing products.

As a result of the diversification of suppliers, the Norfolk-based specialist has been able to maintain or reduce lead times throughout its range and swiftly fulfil orders received from across the globe.
 

Yokel

LE
It seems that the new National Security and Investment Act in the UK may be useful.

Kwasi Kwarteng launches inquiry into proposed takeover of Newport Wafer Fab - The Guardian

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has launched an inquiry into the proposed takeover of the UK’s largest microchip manufacturer Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-backed Nexperia.

Kwarteng said on Wednesday that the deal will be scrutinised under the new National Security and Investment Act, which was introduced at the start of the year.

Any deal for Newport Wafer Fab, which is located in south Wales, is particularly sensitive as the company has multiple contracts with the UK government, including defence-related projects.

Nexperia, which is looking to acquire Newport Wafer Fab in a £63m deal, is based in the Netherlands but is a subsidiary of China’s partially state-backed Wingtech.

Kwarteng tweeted: “We welcome overseas investment, but it must not threaten Britain’s national security.”
 

Yokel

LE
Russian weapons are full of American components it seems.

Captured Russian Weapons Are Packed With U.S. Microchips - The Warzone

When Ukrainian forces began to take apart several pieces of captured or partially destroyed Russian military equipment, they found a strong reliance on foreign microchips - especially those made in the United States - according to component lists Ukraine intelligence shared with The War Zone.

The chips in question were found inside a recovered example of the 9S932-1, a radar-equipped air defense command post vehicle that is part of the larger Barnaul-T system, a Pantsir air defense system, a Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter, and a Kh-101 (AS-23A Kodiak) cruise missile.
 

Yokel

LE
On the theme of our own capabilities and supply chains, see this from The Manufacturer:

£25m drive to confront manufacturing supply chain turbulence rallies industry

A £25m industry-led programme to tackle supply chain woes head-on has opened applications to businesses and academia across the UK.

Led by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, the Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub will create a community of large businesses, technology startups and academics to advance the development and adoption of cutting-edge digital technology. The four-year project will address the critical supply chain challenges facing UK business and industry, from supply and demand imbalances, to risk and resilience and the move to net zero.

Part of the Made Smarter Innovation initiative to supercharge UK manufacturing industries, and backed by industry leaders, the Digital Supply Chain Hub will provide much needed improvements in data sharing and analysis for manufacturers, allowing them to quickly and accurately target supply chain bottlenecks and pinpoint unnecessary waste.

Applications are now open until 03 July with up to £40,000 in funding for research challenges, and up to £80,000 for technology led opportunities. The companies selected to join the Hub will access industry and technical support, and work together with industry challenge sponsors including BAE Systems and Schneider Electric.
 

Yokel

LE
On the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of the Falklands Islands, we should think about the way that industry urgently responded. From here:

Industrial Support

This was key, and shows the importance of Industrial capabilities and skills. The naval bases sweated blood to get the task group ships ready, some of which were in maintenance periods or had been destored in preparation for disposal. Other places and companies designed and fabricated things such as GPMG mounts and the fittings to allow helicopter operations from some of the larger STUFT vessels. Chemring opened a new production line for chaff rockets, Marshalls of Cambridge designed and produced AAR probes for the Hercules and Nimrod at very short notice, and Ferranti hurriedly developed a system for interfacing the navigation system of the Harrier GR3 with that aboard HMS Hermes.

Many other companies were involved. A few years ago I was talking to a local guy who had done things such as electronic assembly and producing cable assemblies his whole working life, and he mentioned working for a local company and being busy with urgent orders in 1982.
 
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endure

GCM
The following Merchant Navy ships were requisitioned, as Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT).

Liners
  • SS Canberra 44,807 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad[6] and carried personnel of the 3rd Commando Brigade to San Carlos on 21 May.[9]
  • MV Queen Elizabeth 2. 67,140 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad[6] and carried 3,200 men of the 5th Infantry Brigade. At South Georgia, the men of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and 1/7 Gurkha Rifles were transferred to Canberra, Norland and RFA Stromness on 27 May for transport to San Carlos.[10][11]
  • SS Uganda 16,907 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and used as hospital ship from 11 May.[6][12]
Roll-on-Roll-off ferries
  • Elk 5,463 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and two Bofors 40 mm guns to carry three Sea King helicopters, ammunition, and heavy vehicles including eight Bofors 40 mm guns, four FV101 Scorpion and four FV107 Scimitar light tanks - joined carrier battle group on 16 May[6][13]
  • Baltic Ferry 6,455 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and carried three Army helicopters, 105 troops, and 1,874 tons of stores and ammunition to Ajax Bay on 1 June[6][14]
  • Europic Ferry 4,190 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and carried vehicles, ammunition, fuel, and four Scout helicopters of 656 Squadron Army Air Corps to San Carlos on 21 May[6][15]
  • Nordic Ferry 6,455 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and carried troops, stores, and ammunition to Falklands on 29 May[6][16]
  • Norland 12,990 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad[6] carried 800 men of 2 Para and men of 848 Naval Air Squadron to San Carlos on 21 May[17]
  • Rangatira 9,387 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon to carry 1,000 engineers with vehicles and equipment, but sailed after cease fire.[6][18]
  • St Edmund 8,987 GRT[19] – equipped with helicopter pad and carried RAF crews (18 Sqn), troops and vehicles[6]
  • Tor Caledonia 5,056 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and carried vehicles and equipment; arrived 12 June[6][20]
Container / Cargo ships

Atlantic Conveyor
Freighters
  • Avelona Star 9784 GRT (refrigerated) – equipped with helicopter pad and carried provisions; arrived after cease fire[6][25]
  • Geestport 7,730 GRT (refrigerated) – equipped with helicopter pad and carried provisions and stores; arrived 11 June[6][20]
  • Laertes 11,804 GRT – Soviet-built with armored cable trunks and damage control centers - carried general supplies; arrived after cease fire[6][20]
  • Lycaon 11,804 GRT – Soviet-built with armored cable trunks and damage control centers - carried ammunition and supplies; arrived 28 May[6][26]
  • Saxonia 8,547 GRT (refrigerated) – carried provisions; arrived 23 May[6][20]
  • Strathewe 12,598 GRT – carried supplies and landing craft; arrived after cease fire[6][20]
  • St Helena 3,150 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and four Oerlikon 20 mm cannon for use as minesweeper support ship after the cease fire[6][27]
 

endure

GCM
Tankers
  • Alvega 33,000 t (57,372 DWT) – used as base storage tanker at Ascension from mid-May[28]
  • Anco Charger 24,500 DWT – used as auxiliary support tanker from 24 April[29] with capability to transport 42 different liquids at once[6]
  • Balder London 19,980 t (33,751 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 12 May[6][29]
  • British Avon 15,640 t (25,620 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 25 April[6][29]
  • British Dart 15,650 t (28,488 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 22 April[6][30]
  • British Esk 15,643 t (25,905 DWT) – fitted with over-the-stern underway refueling equipment for use as the first convoy escort oiler[6][31]
  • British Tamar 15,646 t (25,498 DWT) – fitted with over-the-stern underway refueling equipment for use as convoy escort oiler from 13 April[6][31]
  • British Tay 15,650 t (25,650 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 12 April[6][32]
  • British Test 16,653 t (25,641 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 14 April[6][29]
  • British Trent 15,649 t (25,147 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 18 April[6][29]
  • British Wye 15,649 t (25,197 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 25 April[6][29] - hit by bomb from Lockheed C-130 Hercules - Minor Damage
  • Eburna 19,763 t (31,374 DWT) – used as auxiliary support tanker from 26 April[6][29]
  • Fort Toronto 25,498 DWT – fresh water tanker from 19 April[6][30]
  • G.A.Walker 18,744 t (30,607 DWT) – used as auxiliary tanker from 10 June[29]
  • Scottish Eagle 33,000 t (54,490 DWT) – used as base storage tanker at South Georgia from 18 June and then moved to Falklands on 14 July[28]
Tugs / Repair / Support Ships
  • British Enterprise III 1,595 t – diving support ship
  • Iris 3,873 GRT – cable ship equipped with helicopter pad and two Oerlikon 20 mm cannon for use as despatch vessel from late May.[6][33]
  • Irishman 686 GRT – ocean salvage tug from 24 May.[6][27]
  • Salvageman 1,598 GRT – ocean salvage tug from 7 May.(the most powerful tug on British registry with 11,000 brake horsepower and 170 ton bollard pull)[34]
  • Stena Inspector 5,814 GRT – equipped with helicopter pad and used as repair ship after the cease fire.[35] - purchased as RFA Diligence post-war
  • Stena Seaspread 6,061 GRT – diving vessel, oilfield support ship equipped with helicopter pad and used as repair ship from 16 May.[6][36] "Quote": Supreme effort to prepare fleet for battle: Not for the first time has the versatility and technological capability of the offshore support fleet astounded the military - it only comes as a surprise to those not familiar with the offshore oil industry and the demands it places on ships and those crewing them, that the navies of the world do not have the same level of technology available and their personnel often lack the same levels of skills and experience. Most noteworthy was the MSV Stena Seaspread, a refitted diving and maintenance vessel which was taken to the Falklands to act as a floating workshop for the warships. During the period of hostilities the MSV Stena Seaspread carried out damage and other repairs in mid-ocean to more than 50 ships, including 10 warships and 4 captured vessels.[37]
  • Wimpey Seahorse 1,599 GRT – oilfield supply vessel used as mooring tender and tug from 8 June.[6][12]
  • Yorkshireman 686 GRT – ocean salvage tug from 24 May.[6][12]
 

Yokel

LE
Many thanks for that list. Producing and installing the helicopter pads and the associated stability calculations would have been a serious undertaking. Do you know if they were also fitted with improvised hangars to protect the aircraft from the South Atlantic elements? What did they do about the need for landing aids? Simple improvisation? It would have helped that the UK has been producing these systems since the 1950s.

@Not a Boffin might know.
 
The UK may force ARM to list on the London market to prevent Softbank (a Japanese company) from listing in the US and moving the headquarters to the US.
UK govt considers invoking national security in Arm IPO saga

The UK concern apparently is that the US government may try to force the company to move to the US.

Softbank bought the company in 2016 and took it off the stock market. Softbank have since then pissed away so much money on bad American tech investments that they need to sell assets to raise cash.

Softbank tried to sell ARM to Nvidia, but the UK government vetoed it. Anti-monopoly regulators in the EU, US, and China were also opposed to the sale to Nvidia.

The current plan is to list on the stock marker, apparently winding things back to where they were before Softbank bought them.
 
The UK may force ARM to list on the London market to prevent Softbank (a Japanese company) from listing in the US and moving the headquarters to the US.
UK govt considers invoking national security in Arm IPO saga

The UK concern apparently is that the US government may try to force the company to move to the US.

Softbank bought the company in 2016 and took it off the stock market. Softbank have since then pissed away so much money on bad American tech investments that they need to sell assets to raise cash.

Softbank tried to sell ARM to Nvidia, but the UK government vetoed it. Anti-monopoly regulators in the EU, US, and China were also opposed to the sale to Nvidia.

The current plan is to list on the stock marker, apparently winding things back to where they were before Softbank bought them.
Similar story here.

The UK government is set to wave through a £2.6bn takeover of a British defence manufacturer in a deal that will move a US private equity investor a step closer to controlling a significant supplier of nuclear submarine equipment.

Cobham has received the green light to take over Ultra Electronics, a FTSE 250 maker of systems such as sonar and radio communications used by navies and air forces, as well as civilian aircraft. Cobham was itself controversially taken over and broken up by US private equity investor Advent over the course of 2019 and 2020.

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced on Thursday that he is “minded to accept undertakings offered” by a Cobham/Advent investment vehicle to address national security concerns.
 
The big danger for ARM is anything which risks its current status as a neutral party in the CPU world. ARM develop CPU designs but other companies then license the design, modify it, and either make it themselves or have it made at a third party "foundry" (chip making plant).

The two things that could threaten that neutrality are a take over by a company that sells CPUs (ARM license their design to other companies who then customize and manufacture it) or a move of control of the company to the US. The latter actively use their control of technology markets to advance their economic and political power and wielding the big stick of a monopoly of CPUs would be irresistible for them.

NVIDIA represented both threats at once, which is why it was opposed by virtually everyone who wasn't NVIDIA.

A US stock market listing as a primary or sole listing still represents the second threat. This will be why the UK are reportedly going to veto that plan. Apparently if ARM have their primary or sole stock market listing in the US then they must move their headquarters to the US. Once they do that most observers believe that the rest of ARM will inevitably follow and the UK will lose its premier technology company.

Intel and AMD dominate the PC and server markets but ARM have swallowed up most of the rest of the market and are chipping away at the PC and server markets.

The only potential cloud on the horizon which could prevent total CPU world domination by ARM is RISC V. The latter is an open source CPU specification which has a lot of minor players behind it.

I'll make a long story short by saying that there is a widespread belief in the technology world that if anything poses a serious threat to the neutrality of ARM a lot of existing ARM licensees will exercise a plan 'B' and start to replace ARM with RISC V. Currently there is so much market support for ARM that it's worth paying the license fees to ARM to use their IP. Threaten that neutrality and independence however and suddenly the balance shifts against ARM.

This is what the UK government are looking at when they concern themselves about who owns and controls ARM.
 
I was involved in 2 projects related to devices where ARM processors were used. In one of them I realised algorithm of parabolic interpolation (of course on C). Frankly speaking if it was a processor with alternative architecture then for me it was irrelevant. ARM architecture from my point of view is not something unique or the best possible. ARM type processors just dominate on respective market mostly because of rich choice of software and big number of existing applications.
By contrast architecture of DSP is essential. In one project with Analog Devices DSP I wrote critically important section using assembler to generate the most efficient code.
Btw, there are 2 Russian companies (Syntacor and CloudBear) that were involved in the international project to advance RISC-V architecture. In theory the Russians are able to develop the software and even to produce low frequency chips (for military applications).
The EU, India, and China all have active RISC V projects as well. All see access to CPU designs as a strategic issue.

The UK government know that ARM's current market dominance is based on a lot of factors that are not technical in nature. This is why there is the current debate about stepping in and preventing a national technology champion from falling into "undesirable" foreign hands.
 
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