Military electronic systems have long operating lifetimes, sometimes longer than the shelf lives of components in those systems. When a semiconductor supplier, for example, decides to discontinue an integrated circuit (IC) that is used in defense and aerospace systems, this can pose problems for both prime contractors and military program managers. Fortunately, this need for a continuing supply of older electronic components, not only for military platforms but for industrial, medical, and commercial products, has given rise to a growing segment of the electronics industry that supports hard-to-find and obsolete components as distributors for leading component manufacturers. This level of support often involves not only buying up excess inventory of discontinued parts at an electronics components manufacturer, but acquiring their intellectual property (IP) to remanufacture those parts when necessary.

Lansdale Semiconductor, for example, manufactures more than 3000 ICs in their original packages (about 850 as sole source). Used in both military and commercial wireless applications, these ICs were originally produced by companies such as Fairchild Semiconductor, Freescale Semiconductor, Motorola, Intel, National Semiconductor, Raytheon Semiconductor, and Signetics. Founded in Lansdale, PA in 1964, the company was relocated to Phoenix, AZ in 1976. In addition, a wafer fabrication facility in Santa Monica, CA was purchased in 1983, moved to Tempe, AZ in 1993, and sold to Primarion with an agreement for continuing support for foundry services.

The company is certified and approved by the United States Department of Defense Supply Center, Columbus (DSCC) to manufacture parts for the Qualified Products List (QPL) and is a Qualified Manufacturer (QM) under the MIL-PRF-38535 Qualified Manufacturing List (QML), as well as an ISO 9001/2000 supplier, supporting the commercial, industrial, military, and aerospace industries. The QML plan was modified to allow Lansdale to list its parts regardless of whether the die was fabricated by Lansdale or by the original manufacturer. Lansdale's President, R. Dale Lillard, explains the company's mission: "From the beginning, Lansdale has specialized in aftermarket technology manufacturing and supplies for discontinued semiconductors and ICs. We are dedicated to that goal, assuring our customer base that older discontinued semiconductor, RF, and other IC technology product supplies will continue to be available. Our mission is to manufacture important integrated circuits forever. When you buy a replacement part, you want it to work exactly the way the original part worked. And we are talking about radar and other critical military systems."

Secure Components LLC is another supplier of obsolete and hard-to-find components. Formed in 2008, the firm is an AS9120 compliant, certified small business, operating in Norristown, PA. As with many obsolete parts suppliers, Secure Components has qualified for a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code (506Y0), which is a code issued by the Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) to identify a commercial or government entity; it can also be assigned by a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and recorded by DLIS.

The company supplies hard-to- find, new surplus, and government surplus parts to companies working on prime government contracts, with full traceability to prior government contracts. The firm supports the United States Department of Defense (DoD), the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, and the US Marines, as well as prime contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co. and numerous subcontractors. Its extensive list of partners include Tobyhanna Army Depot, Tinker Air Force Base, NAVAIR, USMC Yuma, and the US Coast Guard. Secure Components, which is assigned CAGE code 506Y0, has participated in more than 200 government contracts since 2008 as a prime contractor. The DSCC-approved vendor guarantees that all of its products from QML- 19500 approved manufacturers comply with all provisions specified in the MILPRF- 19500 standards.

Another dependable supplier of hard-to-find electronic components is Rochester Electronics, founded in 1981 and headquartered in Newburyport, MA. The company is licensed and authorized by over 50 semiconductor manufacturers to provide a continuing manufacturing source for mature/discontinued products. The list includes Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Analog Devices, Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, Intersil, National Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments. Rochester maintains inventory for over 10 billion semiconductor die, and manufactures thousands of different devices and ICs in a variety of packages, from commercial grade to space-qualified packages. Th e company, which is certified to ISO- 9001:2008 and QML MIL-PRF-38535, maintains a design and technology office in Rockville, MD.

Earlier this year, the company certified its facility in Newburyport, MA to AS9120 requirements, the aerospace quality management system for stocklist distributors. The AS9120 certification provides suppliers with a comprehensive quality system focused on areas impacting aerospace distribution. Rhe AS9120 standard addresses chain of custody, traceability, quality control, records availability and counterfeit awareness. Also earlier this year, Rochester was chosen as one of the Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems 2009 Supplier Excellence Award recipients. In 2007, Rochester received the Chinese Reliable Electronic Component Supplier's Classification (RECS) by China's Ministry of Industry, a joint administrated program by the China Electronic Purchasing Association (CEPA) and the China Quality Association for the Electronics Industry (CQAE). Rochester is authorized by a long list of quality electronics component manufacturers, including Agere Systems, Agilent Technologies, Analog Devices, IBM, International Rectifier, Lucent Technologies, Xilinx, and Zilog.

Summit Electronics Corp., with a line card that includes 3M, Actel, Advanced Power Technologies, Agilent Technologies, Alpha Wire, Altera, American Technical Ceramics, Analog Devices, California Eastern Laboratories, IBM Microelectronics, Raytheon Semiconductor, Rockwell Semiconductor, Samsung Semiconductor, TRW, and various divisions of Tyco Electronic, brings 40 years experience to the stocking and distribution of discontinued and hardto- find electronic components. Product lines include current transformers, diodes, ICs, memory, resistors, rheostats, transistors, and vacuum tubes. Founded in 1961 under the name of Thor Electronics, Summit Electronics (CAGE code 1T8PO), maintains a large reference library and computer database with data on current and obsolete parts.

The Harry Krantz Company has provided critical program support and electronic components to defense, aerospace, and industrial manufacturing for over 70 years. The firm maintains over 700,000 in-stock units of obsolete, hard-to-find and end-of-life components. Founded by Harry Kranz in the "Radio Row" section of Manhattan in New York, NY, the company has been guided by three generations, first by Harry's son Richard and then his son Jeff. The privately held, family-run business has adapted to the changing needs of customers' end-of-life system requirements by tracking down and acquiring hard-to- find components, including passive components, electromechanical parts, interconnections, and semiconductors.

Smith Semiconductor, Inc. is another company started to help aerospace and defense customers with procurement of obsolete or hard-to-find electronic components. Founded in 2000 (CAGE code 1UFG1), the firm stockpiles over 14 million items in support of automotive, commercial, medical, military, and space industries. The company markets excess inventory for other firms, using more than 40 different global sourcing web sites to connect sellers with buyers. Smiths has received contracts from defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and Raytheon Co.

H&R Enterprises, based in Chatsworth, CA, is another wholesale electronic distributor for obsolete and hard-to-find parts. Founded in 1970, the company has over 200 million ICs in stock, consisting of 300,000 line items, housed in a 30,000-sq. ft. facility. Parts include capacitors, connectors, diodes, ICs, and transistors. The company serves industrial, commercial, and military markets worldwide.

A number of companies have made full use of the Internet to build and update inventories of obsolete and hardto- find components, including 4 Star Electronics, Inc., Online Technology Exchange, Inc., and USBID, Inc. Like many online services, 4 Star Electronics' web site allows quick searches by part number and online quotes for pricing. The company claims over 100,000 line items for same-day shipping, maintained in a 25,000-sq. ft . facility, with a global network and proprietary search utility providing access to over 50 million components worldwide. The ANSI/ESD-S20.20 certified and ISO 9001:2008 certified electronic components distributor was founded in 2001 and is authorized for obsolete and hard-to-find components by many leading manufacturers, including Analog Devices, Burr-Brown, Fairchild, Linear Technology, Maxim Integrated Products, Microsemi, Motorola, and Texas Instruments.

Online Technology Exchange carries both new and obsolete ICs, including analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), digital-to-analog converters (DACs), memory, and digital signal processors (DSPs). USBID offers a database with more than 35 million lines of inventory, including MIL-STD-883 and Method 5004 screened products. Based in Palm Bay, FL, the company (CAGE code 1XJX0) is ISO 9001:2008 certified as part of its quality management system.