U.S. next-generation military technology is dependent on steady supply of rare-earth metals
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Furthermore, dual-use components made from rare earths play a vital role in U.S. national security through defense sector applications. Permanent magnets are incorporated in critical guidance and control mechanisms of U.S.-built weapons, enabling kinetic weapons to impact their target.33 Today’s advanced jet engines are coated with rare earth elements for increased thermal stress resistance.34 The performance requirements for the engines on the F-22A Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) are extremely stringent based on the environment in which these aircraft routinely operate. Without the added thermal protection rare earths provide, engine performance may be degraded with catastrophic results.
Rare earths technology used in electronics also has numerous defense applications. The same technology used in manufacturing commercial Ni-MH batteries is also found in both electronic warfare systems and directed energy weapons.35 Examples of their use include smart jammers on advanced U.S. fighter aircraft, area denial weapons systems, and the electromagnetic railgun.36 All of these weapons require high efficiency battery technology to function properly. Additionally, computer drives manufactured with critical rare earths enable precision weapons systems to reach their targets, while laser technology depends on the amplification properties of rare earths for targeting.37 Without these critical components, accuracy would deteriorate, potentially resulting in increased collateral damage and weapons expenditure.