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Why titanium makes Russia a key country for Airbus

Metal supplier
Titanium is a vital element in aircraft manufacturing around the world. It can be found in different parts of the airliner. With this in mind, Airbus must ensure that it has the necessary supplies of this metal for its operations.

Airbus's presence in Russia began three decades ago. Notably, Aeroflot accepted its first A310 in the early 1990s, making it the first aircraft built in the west to receive a Russian-type certificate. Currently, the combined aircraft of the A350, A330 and A320 families comprise 340 aircraft in the Russian fleet.

The largest titanium producer in the world

During a presentation at the MAKS-2021 air show in Moscow last week, Airbus CEO and head of sales and sales in Europe Wouter Van Versh noted that half of the titanium in his company's aircraft comes from Russia. The country is one of the largest titanium producers in the world: up to 40 thousand tons of spongy titanium are produced annually.

VSMPO-Avisma, headquartered in Verkhnaya Salda, Russia, is the world's largest titanium producer, dating back nearly nine decades. Airbus first signed an agreement with this firm in the 1990s, and the partnership has grown every year. Initially, the deal consisted of the purchase of raw materials. However, the company is now transferring value-added semi-finished metal products under the contract.

Titanium alloys have a high strength-to-weight ratio. Therefore, they are commonly used in key structures such as landing gear and gliders.

“In aircraft engines, heat-resistant titanium alloys are used to make blades, disks and other parts for engine fans and compressors,” says Russian aviation conglomerate Rostec.

Russian titanium production and its needs in the world

"While the widespread use of composites in aircraft construction may be viewed as a threat to other materials, there is a definite advantage for titanium that encourages industrial use."

VSMPO-Avisma supplies titanium forgings for aircraft of all Airbus families. This factor underscores how important relationships are for an aircraft manufacturer.

It's important to note that it's not just Airbus that is heavily dependent on this Russian titanium production. VSMPO-Avisma supplies covered most of Boeing's needs and up to all Embraer's needs for titanium for their aircraft. Even companies like Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Safran also rely on Russian titanium.

Links run through the entire supply chain. Against the backdrop of successful relations built over many years, the Airbus Engineering Center, better known as IKAR, was established in Moscow in 2003. This project was part of a joint venture between an aircraft building company and the Kaskol industrial group. In total, the enterprise has completed more than 120 projects, including work under the A330neo, A350-1000, A321XLR and A330neo programs.

Airbus undoubtedly has a strong presence in Russia and this is bilateral. The manufacturer's aircraft continue to be seen in the country, while many of the most important materials still come from there.