Domestic Titanium Requirements Become an Issue in US
Titanium’s light weight, tremendous strength, and incredible heat-resistance makes it a very desirable metal for aircraft; indeed, fluctuations in its price have been cited as potential future cost issues for the F-35 Joint Strike fighter program and especially the F-22 Raptor. Even ultra-lightweight howitzers like the M777 use it. In 2005 Boeing was moving to secure access to titanium stock.
Now a fight is brewing over a congressional clause enacted in 1973, which says that all “specialty metals” used in US defense purchases must be refined in the USA. On one side, we have the USA’s three titanium companies (RTI International, Titanium Metals Corp. and Allegheny Technologies), plus congressmen like Rep. Duncan Hunter [R-CA], chair of the House Armed Services Committee. On the other side is the Aerospace Industries Association, backed in all probability by the large aerospace manufacturers. Issues involved include dual-use military/civilian items, the realism of compliance, its effect on costs, and the Russian government’s plans for its titanium industry. Read The Hill’s March 16, 2003 article: “U.S. titanium industry defending its territory.”
May 10/06 Update: The Pentagon and AIA have reportedly reached an agreement in principle.