RBSL-led team awarded contract to develop affordable titanium for defence

27 July 2020 – Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has been awarded a contract to develop new techniques, applying the latest research and technology, for using recycled titanium in defence equipment.

The project, known as ‘Affordable Titanium for Defence’, was awarded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).  The contract is worth up to £3.5m and will be delivered in two phases over four years.

Currently steel is the most commonly used material for military equipment, however titanium is often preferred as it has a similar strength and is approximately half the weight.  As titanium is an expensive raw material, the RBSL-led team will develop a solution that recycles titanium waste material, known as ‘swarf’, and turns it into a reusable product at reduced cost and effort.

RBSL and its partners will explore which type of waste material is best to use, how best to process the material, and what material properties work best for defence equipment such as combat vehicle armour or running gear.  The project will also involve testing to assess ballistic, fatigue, and corrosion performance if used in-service across land, maritime, or air equipment.

RBSL will lead the project as prime contractor and will collaborate with academic and industry experts across the UK.  The team includes BAE Systems’ Air sector, which has already conducted extensive research and uses titanium across a range of components.  BAE Systems’ Maritime and Land sector will also advise on potential naval applications.  MBDA will provide missile systems support, and Transition International will conduct reprocessing trials as well as provide advice on reprocessing techniques.

The team also includes academic institutions such as The University of Sheffield, who will share their considerable advanced materials research in this field, and the University of Strathclyde whose Advanced Forming Research Centre team will apply their metal forming technology research.

Through the first phase of the contract, small-scale components will be produced and tested to establish how successfully recycled titanium can be incorporated into defence equipment, before the second phase of the project is launched.

RBSL’s Technology Programmes Manager, Nick Brown, said:

“This programme allows RBSL to collaborate with partners across academia and defence for the Affordable Titanium project and to deliver something truly innovative for soldiers which also helps keep them safe.

“The air domain in defence uses titanium alloys extensively; however the cost of this material can be prohibitive in the land and maritime domains. This project is an opportunity to address this cost issue with the added benefit of helping the environment through re-using valuable waste material.”

Photo courtesy The University of Sheffield