A lesson from the Ukraine war: Secure our semiconductor supply chains
There are many lessons emerging from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and others yet to be discerned. One insight that the war has reinforced concerns the tremendous strategic value of semiconductors. These tiny silicon chips offer a huge warfighting advantage for the Ukrainians — but also should remind the United States of the urgent need to secure our own semiconductor supply chain. In the war thus far, Ukrainian forces have used small, relatively inexpensive weapons such as Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, Switchblade drones, and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to destroy hundreds of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters and jets. Each Javelin, NLAW, Switchblade and Stinger costs a tiny fraction of the price of a tank or jet. Collectively, these weapons have imposed punishing costs on the Russian forces in blood and treasure. None of this would be possible without advanced semiconductors, which power critical battlefield systems, including the guidance systems in each missile. Just one Javelin, for example, contains about 250 microchips. Notably, the Javelin and Stinger both trace back to the Reagan defense modernization in the 1980s — when Reagan’s Cold War strategy included securing America’s semiconductor supply chains and leveraging our technology edge over Moscow.