By Girish Linganna
With effect from August 1, the Chinese capital has imposed restrictions on the export of gallium, a component that has long been an integral part of the U.S. military’s advanced defense systems and supply chain.
An expert has claimed that although there may be some short-term disruption associated with the market adjustments, any costs incurred would be minor and the US government will be able to find alternative sources.
Experts contend that Beijing’s current export restrictions on gallium, a necessary element in US military radars, may not have a major effect on the Pentagon’s supply chain since defence chiefs will be seeking out other sources.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce declared the introduction of export restrictions on gallium and germanium related items in order to defend “national security and interests”, which is generally perceived to be a reaction to the US-supported sanctions imposed on the Chinese semiconductor industry.
Consequences of failing to adhere to the measures, which necessitate Beijing’s approval for the exporting of these strategically important metals, can include administrative discipline or criminal charges
China’s Ministry of Commerce declared that germanium and gallium products had both military and civilian applications when they declared the restrictions.
Gallium is a key material in US advanced defense systems, especially high-energy radars. It is used in semiconductors and LEDs, and is being increasingly used in gallium nitride (GaN) technology. GaN is used in the transmit-receive modules for active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, such as the US Navy’s AN/SPY-6 and the Marine Corps’ AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR radars.
The AN/SPY-6 is a 3D radar that will be used on the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These destroyers use the Aegis combat system to defend against air and missile threats.
The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR is a 3D radar that can detect a variety of objects, including uncrewed aerial systems, cruise missiles, air-breathing targets, rockets, and artillery. It uses gallium nitride (GaN) technology to support its antennas and other essential components.
China is trying to disrupt the US defense supply chain by restricting exports of gallium, a key material used in semiconductors. This is seen as a way to retaliate against US sanctions on the Chinese semiconductor industry. China is hoping that this will increase its leverage against the US by making the US more vulnerable to disruptions in its defense supply chain was told by an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in the US,to SCMP
China is hoping that by restricting exports of gallium, a key material used in semiconductors, it can disrupt the US defense supply chain and annoy the US in response to the US’s restrictions on Chinese semiconductor imports.
Although China’s export controls on gallium would cause a shift in the global gallium trade, their impact on the US defense supply chain would be limited, as the US would be able to find alternative sources said the professor
China’s export controls on gallium may change the way gallium is traded, but it is unlikely to make gallium more scarce, as there are other suppliers in the market.
It is likely that US companies, the defense industry, and other stakeholders will look for a substitute for gallium and establish their own supply chains.
Radar technology has become a new point of contention in the ongoing US-China rivalry.
China imposed economic sanctions on South Korea in 2016 after Seoul deployed a US High Altitude Area Defence missile defense system that Beijing said threatened its security.
Raytheon, a US aerospace and defense company, was awarded a $412 million contract to upgrade and maintain surveillance radar in Taiwan in September. This came amid increasing tensions between Beijing and Taipei. In February, China imposed sanctions on Raytheon for its involvement in arms sales to Taiwan.
Chinese scientists have developed a new radar that can detect ballistic missiles from 4,500 kilometers away, which is much farther than the range of conventional radars.
The US does not produce gallium, and it relies on other countries to supply it with this material.
China is the world’s leading producer of gallium, accounting for more than 95% of global production in 2020 and 2021. The US imported about 53% of its gallium from China between 2018 and 2021.
China’s decision to restrict exports of gallium is seen as a response to US pressure on China to control the export of semi conductor technology that could be used for military purposes.
In October, the US government restricted China’s access to advanced computing chips and equipment used in the development and maintenance of supercomputers and the manufacture of advanced semiconductors for military applications.
The US government said that China used the restricted items to produce advanced military systems, such as weapons of mass destruction, and to improve the speed and accuracy of its military decision-making, planning, and logistics.
The US government is taking steps to prevent China from acquiring sensitive technologies that could be used for military purposes.(IPA Service)