How Many Western ICs Are There In Russia’s Weapons?

A screenshot of the website, showing various parts from Western manufacturers

Recently, the Ukrainian government has published a database of Western components being used in recently produced Russian armaments, and it’s a fascinating scroll. Just how much does Russia rely on Western manufacturers’ parts? It turns out, a surprising amount. For instance, if you are wondering which ICs are used to build Iran-produced Shahed drones, it seems that it’s a whole bunch of Texas Instruments parts, as well as some Maxim, Intel, and Xilinx ones. Many of the parts in the lists are MCUs and FPGAs, but it’s also surprising how many of the components are jelly bean parts with multiple suppliers.

There appear to be thousands of parts listings, compiled from a good few dozen pieces of equipment that volunteers appear to have taken apart and scrupulously documented – just take a look at the dropdowns at the top of the page. The Ukrainian government is advocating for parts restrictions to be implemented based upon this data – as we all remember, it’s way harder to produce hardware when you can’t buy crucial ICs.

Even for a regular hacker, this database is worth a scroll, if only to marvel at all the regular parts we wouldn’t quite associate with military use. Now, all that’s left is to see whether any of the specific chips pictured have been sold to washing machine manufacturers.

60 thoughts on “How Many Western ICs Are There In Russia’s Weapons?

  1. I get that the headline is about chip and machine designs from Western companies but I wonder where the majority of them were manufactured. Like, what percentage of the components and machines were built outside of Western countries?

    1. Guessing a good number of them were made in China. And it is easy for Russian to get stuff from China. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sale wasn’t legit but since it was outside USA, not much we can do without souring the relation between China and USA.

      PS never forget 1989 Tiananmen Square!

  2. Back in the USSR times they did make IC’s themselves, but even then, a significant part were clones from western parts. And with the global market today, I wonder if there is still any IC production in Russia.

      1. > All ICs are Western ICs.


        >> Most of the leading fabless semiconductor companies such as AMD, Apple, ARM, Broadcom,
        >> Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Nvidia, are customers of TSMC, as are emerging
        >> companies such as Allwinner Technology, HiSilicon, Spectra7, and UNISOC.[20]
        >> Leading programmable logic device companies Xilinx and previously Altera also make
        >> or made use of TSMC’s foundry services.[21]
        >> Some integrated device manufacturers that have their own fabrication facilities,
        >> such as Intel, NXP, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments, outsource some
        >> of their production to TSMC.[22][23]
        >> At least one semiconductor company, LSI, re-sells TSMC wafers through its ASIC design services and design IP portfolio.

    1. Yeah, Eastern Block countries manufactured ICs, but most of them were 1-2 generations behind western countries. For example CEMI in Poland made licensed ICs for radio receivers that were 5 years behind what was available in USA at the time. The production runs were small, there were quite a bit of faulty chips, and basic parameters tended to be worse than western counterparts. To get around this they purchased parts from western countries to get better quality devices, usually for export or for military.

  3. The very idea of trying to stop a giant list of generic-ish parts, that are produced in the hundreds of millions, from ending up in a specific small supply chain is ludicrous.

    You may as well try to keep the supply of plastics, screws, and metal out of their supply chain too…

    Maybe, MAYBE it could be done for the lower volume stuff like the higher end FPGAs. But even that is pushing the envelope of possibility, let alone feasibility.

    1. You forget that these are the people who court nuclear war over Victoria Nuland’s botched decade-old color revolution project. They’re deeply crazy and incompetent, but that won’t ever stop them before something large and important breaks.

    2. If you look at the actual list, it contains a whole bunch of pretty specific components, like FPGAs, CPUs, DSPs and so on. Also, looking at even the batch numbers could unearth some good info for governments/manufacturers concerned. Even if the supply chain for a specific component is large, given a batch number, you now have some info to possibly narrow down.

    3. This has been discussed for some time – for current russian missile technology (very dated electronics), Russia needs rather old specialized parts that are possible to block and they know it – for modern drones, they use the most common of the shelve parts possible as they are very hard to block – you essentially can’t control MCU that is in half o washing machines around the world or something similar. In the past you needed those specialized chips. Now? Most common of the shelve parts has plenty of computing power, powerful enough FPGAs are common and easily available as well.

      Current gaming GPU anybody can buy in store is more powerful than 20 years old “military grade” tech.

          1. And when the use case is expected to be expendable, and you are using it right now that mill spec durability is just cost for little gain. Especially for folks like the Russian that insist shopping centre and similarly soft civilian targets are worth hitting where you don’t actually need quality at all, as long as it goes bang somewhere. Even missing by half a mile because it can’t deal with jamming, broke under its own G-loading etc and your still hitting something civilian in that target city you apparently believe is worth the cost.

            Really once you are actually at war Mill-spec stuff is usually pointless extra cost to produce – the high quality benchmarks are great when that gear is going to get used for 10 years or sit on a shelf while staying ready to use for ages. But when you are making so much stuff that will be expended (hopefully deliberately without friendly loss off life) inside a week from production even if was built to the highest possible standards…

    4. We should not ship plastics, metal and screws to the invader federation either. (Arguably, not shipping anything to them would be simpler than not shipping specific things.)

      This doesn’t mean that the moment this is implemented ruscists will run out of screws, but accumulating complications in correct places will (and do) have gradual effects. There is already an interesting public conundrum involving cargo railways.

      Obviously, major practical problems exist, such as proxying shipments through PRC, Kyrgyzstan and more, or PRC outright making some stuff for ruscists, but that isn’t exactly the best reason to not try.

      1. There was a report last week from an (alleged) intercepted call of a Russian soldier who said the North Korean missiles/rockets are killing more of their own men than the opposition.

        1. Given the state of a lot of the Russian ammo even from early on in the war that’s not even a high bar to fall from. So much of it had clearly been stored in the open in wooden boxes and was arriving at the front rusty & damaged.

    1. Hard to say, because both are being made in same place.

      Btw, that’s like with pharma industry, I suppose.
      There’s a day and night production.
      The former makes medics that comply with the official requirements,
      whereas the latter will produce the same medics but in adulterated form for shady business partners.

      Then there is the situation with two official, identically looking products made in different countries.
      Say, baby milk powder. One is made in Europe and complies to regulations, while the other one..
      Anyway, the point is that both are being official products by same company.
      But the ingredients are not same.

      1. They’re not all necessarily fake parts, but they don’t come though official channels. Lets say XYZ corp contracts to make 100,000 chips. They make the chips for the contract and XYZ corp sells them at a markup to profit. Now off hours they spin up the assembly line and produce 50,000 more of them and sell them at half off in the Shenzhen market.

  4. So that’s where all the stm32f405 chips have been going.

    They’ve been hard to find at a reasonable price since the chip shortage. Lcsc got some (3k ish) in a week ago; they sold out in about 4 days. Unfortunate when there are certain open source projects that are dependent on that processor specifically.

    1. That is the idea: Create shortage on 1 particular component and cripple a whole project. (Project: washing machine, tactical missile or a random hobby project) And it is not about some special component, it is about frustrating the supply chain of the enemy.

  5. Why wont the US (and Europe and other western countries) do more to stop western products (parts, machine tools, equipment etc etc) from ending up in the hands of the Russians and being used to produce weapons?

    There are absolutely parts on this list (for example) where it would be possible to figure out how the parts are getting in the hands of the Russians and try to stop it from happening.

    1. Sorry but the benefits of exporting all manufacturing over seas(the richest people in the country get richer) far out way any downsides, like a loss of jobs or being able to control where stuff ends up. At least that is what the people that run America believe.

      1. They’re still buying materials from Russia as well. Airbus cried to the French government recently about needing titanium from Russian mills despite promising to wean themselves off it back in 2022. The result is a loosening of sanctions as the French pressured Canada to do so.

        Stocks gotta keep stocking regardless of funding a war machine.

    2. No matter how hard you try it won’t be possible to stop as long as you outsourcing the production of your designs to places with less worker safety, lower environmental regulations etc because its cheaper… Especially while those nations remain rather more friendly and similar to the folks you want to sanction – a great argument to changing tariff on imports from less friendly nations and thus change the economic viability of outsourcing all the production…

    1. You are assuming that the ones that ‘drop off the back of the truck’ would actually be produced ‘properly’ and not just all end up with same serial number etc. At what point in the chain of production has this one managed to get lost into the hands of folks who should have it.

  6. For the electronics side, I have never been able to generate a BOM, that didn’t include several parts that seem to be made exclusively in China. And I’ve never had a BOM, that couldn’t be 100% sourced from China.

    Until mfgs. stop using China for production, where all their IP is going to be immediately be taken from them, trying to cut off RU access will be futile. The QC may be terrible for Chinese knock offs, but that’s just “parts sorting” for RU.

    1. And how many perfect devices are reported to the IP owner as “failed testing” and then sent to the CCP military or its allies?

      Just think of the HP calculators you can buy on That Auction Site (TAS) that sell for way less than retail. Maybe it “failed testing” because of a label that was slightly misaligned.

  7. My government(s) is/are Russia’s enemy, not me (and not a very large part of the population).
    Just wanted to remind you of that.
    Same for China.

    Oh and in similar fashion: My government has friends who are most definetly not my friends. And again that is the same situation for many people, and not just here but everywhere it seems.
    For instance the US leaders love Saudi Arabia, but the people.. perhaps not so much.

  8. It seems to be difficult to stop these things from getting to Russia.

    So maybe stop trying.

    How about this.. say an avenue of parts creep to Russia is found. Instead of fining, arresting or just shutting down whoever is on the western side start feeding them bad parts. Flood the Russian facing black market with junk! Make them scared to even press the ‘launch’ button as they never know when it is going to blow up in their faces!

    Or.. if something more subtle is required…

    Be more creative regarding exactly how the parts are broken and just flood the market everywhere.

    For example.. imagine a GPS unit that is aware of the line between occupied and free Ukraine. If it sees it is traveling Westward across that line it mirrors it’s longitude across the line. Suddenly Russian rockets start turning around and going home! If manufacturers could be compelled to place such an update in all their products.. you wouldn’t even have to identify the channels those products take to Russia. Such a modification just wouldn’t affect any other users.

    1. Actually.. my mirroring idea wasn’t quite right.. If you want it to turn around (and I certainly do) it should start reporting it’s longitude as being somewhere in Poland or something like that.

  9. I recall (a long time ago) the TV show “60 Minutes” did a segment on Cambodian (Kampuchean?) landmines that had a Motorola op-amp in them. They tried to blame Motorola for supplying the chips to Communist aggressors.

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