Titanium is one of the most commonly used metals for military applications, being appreciated for its high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance. The use of titanium has allowed manufacturers to create lightweight equipment, with increased durability (especially under extreme conditions).
Why is titanium preferred for military applications?
The preference for titanium with regard to military applications is not something random. The metal maintains a high level of performance, even at elevated temperatures. Moreover, it has both the fatigue and fracture toughness required for such applications. Lightweight and strong, with excellent corrosion resistance, titanium is seen as a valuable resource in the military.
The high demand for titanium in the military field has contributed to the innovative research regarding new potential uses. It was important for the military industry to find a metal that can withstand extreme conditions, without its efficiency, strength of resistance being affected.
As the titanium extraction and purification processes became less complex, the metal was gradually preferred for various components (it replaced steel as the standard choice). Titanium is no longer as expensive as in the past and, as it becomes easily available, the military field increasingly relies on it.
Military uses of titanium
Titanium is nowadays used for the development of aircraft parts, as well as for missiles, armor plating and naval ships. Even spacecrafts have components from titanium, given its high versatility in different environments.
Apart from commercially-pure titanium, manufacturers rely on titanium alloys as well. They alloy titanium with aluminum and vanadium, developing landing gears, exhaust ducts and hydraulic systems. Recently, titanium has been alloyed with tungsten, the resulting mixture being used for tank armors (battlefield protection). Critical structural parts and firewalls can be made with titanium alloys.
It is true that titanium alloys are quite popular in the military field, including for various parts and hydraulic systems. Alpha alloys, however, are not used, as they cannot be heat treated and, thus, it is impossible to obtain the necessary mechanical properties. Alpha-beta alloys, on the other hand, can be heat treated, having both the necessary strength and ductility for various military applications.
Given the high resistance of titanium, it should come as no surprise that manufacturers are using the metal for the making of armor suits (enhanced protection against ballistic threats).
Every day, thanks to innovative research, titanium finds more and more uses in the military field. Apart from armor protection and aircraft structural components, it is employed for the making of battlefield tanks and missiles, as well as for other types of weaponry and piping (naval seawater).
The armor for both tanks and military personnel can be made with titanium as main constituent. Personal carriers and ordnance equipment, as well as armor plating, are made from titanium. This is because titanium has a reduced weight yet it is incredible strong, resisting ballistic attacks.
Titanium grades – military use
When it comes to armor applications, Ti-6A1-4V is commonly preferred, as it has the best ballistic performance to offer. Another alloy, Ti-6AL-4V ELI, is often employed for the development of aircraft turbines and other pieces of equipment operating in environments with incredibly high temperatures.
For ordnance components and frames, 6AL-6V-2Sn-Ti is preferred. This titanium alloy is sometimes used for the development of landing gears and rocket cases. Grade 5 titanium is employed for a wide range of military applications, exhibiting higher strength when heat treated.
Titanium composites, a recent discovery
In the past few decades, researchers have concentrated on the use of titanium composites, including in the military field. The composite has been developed from titanium and fiberglass, being used for the manufacturing of rotor blades (these are nowadays found in the Black Hawk helicopters).
Why are composites so often employed for military applications? The answer is simple. These titanium composites have a superior conductivity to offer, especially in comparison to carbon composites. Moreover, they guarantee a highly-effective galvanic and thermal expansion.
Use of titanium in the navy
Navy applications require a metal that can resist seawater damage, without its integrity being affected at all. Titanium, with its excellent corrosion resistance, represents a truly ideal choice. Thus, it is used for the development of equipment that frequently comes in contact with seawater.
Propeller shafts and underwater manipulators are made from titanium and its alloys. The same goes for rigging equipment, shipboard cooling systems and piping. The metal represents the first choice for the making of submarine ball valves and heat exchangers, as well as fire pumps and exhaust stack liners.
Before titanium became used on a large scale, the seawater piping damage was a constant problem. This deterioration was especially encountered in heat exchangers, requiring frequent replacements and repairs (higher service costs). In time, the copper-nickel pipes were replaced by those from titanium, with improved lifespan and reduced service costs.
Use of titanium in the Air Force
The military aircraft industry has relied on titanium for decades, especially for frames and bodes. Today, you will also see other aircraft components made from titanium or its alloys, including wind access panels, landing gears and brackets. It has been estimated that up to 25% of a military aircraft contains titanium (this percentage is higher than the one encountered in commercial airplanes).
The reason for which titanium is so popular in the military aerospace field has to do with great performance, especially with elevated temperatures (over 600ºC). Given such properties, titanium is nowadays used for the making of jet engine castings and compressor discs. While other metals would crack, suffering from fatigue at such temperatures, titanium can resist such high temperatures and maintain absolute best performance.