NATO: West may lose access to crucial military materials

WASHINGTON — Western militaries may lose access to critical materials needed for weapons and other systems, because of the growing demand for new technologies, questionable supply lines and production in unfriendly or dangerous countries, NATO documents show.

“Key strategic materials are those that are crucial in the manufacture of sophisticated military hardware or components such as airframes, gas turbines, rocket motors, munitions, armor and electronics,” according to a newly released NATO request for information. “These materials are becoming increasingly scarce.”

Most troubling, the NATO report says, is that “many of these materials and products are not produced within NATO countries.” Instead, they come from rival nations, such as China and Russia, or those mired in internal conflicts and civil war, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. That limits NATO’s access to the metals and minerals that make up key parts of important weapons and aircraft.

Cobalt. Primarily mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), cobalt is used in alloys with other metals to make gas turbines and jet engines. The DRC has been troubled by civil war and rebellion since it gained independence from Belgium in the early 1960s. At least 5.4 million people have died there since 1998, many because of preventable diseases, according to a report by the International Rescue Committee.

Tantalum. A rare, hard, blue-gray metal that is used in jet engines, nuclear weapons and missile parts. Its non-military uses include electronics as well as medical equipment and implants. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s largest sources of tantalum.

Tungsten. The hard metal is often used in missiles and ammunition, while its non-military uses include fluorescent lighting and electronics. The world’s main tungsten producers include China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Russia.

Full article: NATO: West may lose access to crucial military materials (Marine Corps Times)

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