An Airbus executive indicated that the manufacturer will stop relying on Russian titanium supplies in the coming months. Given that Russia is the world’s largest producer of titanium, turning away from it is an extremely complex undertaking. Titanium is used in the industry for its high specific strength (it is the strongest metal known). Its main applications are engines and landing gear, where its cost is offset by its low weight and high strength.
“We are in the process of decoupling from Russia as far as titanium is concerned. It will be a matter of months, not years,” Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence & Space, told Reuters. “I can’t give an exact date as it’s a relatively complex process that will depend on certifications and all the seasoning that aviation demands, but it will happen.” Certifying new suppliers, which indicates they meet stringent aerospace regulatory standards, is a process that often takes years.
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Industry sources said the European conglomerate has increased its purchases from the United States and Japan while exploring new sources. “At the moment, Airbus still buys a certain percentage of Russian titanium, but we are in the process of becoming independent of it,” Schoellhorn said. According to the executive, Airbus military products no longer use Russian titanium, and civil aircraft have “little time” left to use it. According to the 2019 annual report, the NH90 and Tiger military helicopter programs have relied on Russian titanium in the past.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on Western governments to impose stronger sanctions on Russia. However, Airbus argues that sanctioning the titanium industry would greatly damage the global aerospace sector while doing little harm to the Russian economy.