10 Juli 2009
JSF F-35 (photo : DefGovAu)
The Australian government is encouraging titanium ore producers and research and development (R&D) organisations to find solutions that would enable domestic defence industries to produce titanium parts for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) across the globe.
Australia has 40 per cent of the world's titanium ore resources, according to government statistics, but faces several production challenges in order to meet the JSF and wider military aerospace requirements.
The economic benefits, however, could be significant should these challenges be overcome. The value of contracts related to titanium production for the JSF produced in Australia could total AUD60 million (USD47 million) and potentially billions of dollars on future global contracts.
A spokesman from the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) told Jane's on 7 July: "Cost-effective utilisation of titanium is relevant to the JSF's 'follow-on development', which will incorporate enhancements to JSF throughout its life, adding to its affordability, which is an ongoing priority over the 40-year life of the JSF programme."
However, before strategies can be put in place to produce and market Australian-manufactured titanium JSF parts, the government, R&D agencies and industries need to overcome a significant challenge. The main issue they face is that the large quantity of titanium sourced from Australia is supplied only as rutile - otherwise known as titanium dioxide - which is not suitable for commercial manufacturing.