Aluminum giant Alcoa (AA – Analyst Report) has clinched another major aerospace contract. It has won a contract worth roughly $1.1 billion to supply titanium for Lockheed Martin’s (LMT – Analyst Report) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (“JSF”) program.
Under the contract, Alcoa will supply titanium plate and billet from a number of operations it gained through its buyout of RTI International Metals which was closed in Jul 2015. The contract makes Alcoa the titanium supplier for airframe structures for all three variants of the F-35 from 2016 to 2024.
The titanium will be utilized to make airframe structures for all three F-35 JSF variants – the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft and the F-35C carrier variant. Under another existing contract, Alcoa will use titanium to forge all of the largest titanium bulkheads at its Cleveland, OH operations.
The F-35 JSF is an advanced fighter aircraft that combines stealth, speed and agility. Lockheed Martin is looking to produce 13 aircraft a month on a full-rate basis by the mid-2020s, which is an increase from an average of 3 aircraft delivered a month last year. The F-35 has been billed as the most advanced fighter jet on the planet. Alcoa’s multi-material offerings will help Lockheed Martin meet aggressive weight, range and fuel efficiency goals.
Alcoa already supplies several multi-material components for the F-35 including multiple structural aircraft body components, advanced aluminum die forgings, fasteners and installation tooling, and machined aluminum and titanium vane box assemblies.
Titanium is the fastest-growing aerospace metal and spending on titanium aerospace mill products has been projected rise 5% annually over the next 5 years on the back of high-growth, next-generation aircraft programs.
The Lockheed Martin deal comes shortly after Alcoa’s announcement of a major supply contract with Airbus. Alcoa, on Oct 5, cut a $1 billion deal with Airbus to supply the latter titanium, steel and nickel-based superalloy aerospace fastening systems. The deal marks Alcoa’s biggest fastener contract ever with Airbus.
Alcoa, which continues to grapple with weak aluminum pricing, is actively pursuing its aerospace expansion strategy. Alcoa continues to look for expansion opportunities beyond its struggling legacy primary aluminum business and diversify into other materials such as those (nickel and titanium-based) used to make aircraft parts.
The buyout of RTI International has broadened Alcoa’s titanium offerings and added advanced technologies and materials to its portfolio. Moreover, the purchase of U.K.-based leading jet engine components maker Firth Rixson has strongly placed Alcoa to capture additional growth in the growing aerospace market through a broad spectrum of high-growth, value-add jet engine components.
In addition, the acquisition of Germany-based leading provider of titanium and aluminum structural castings – Tital – has strengthened Alcoa’s position to leverage strong growth in the commercial aerospace sector and capture rising demand for advanced jet engine components made of titanium.