China May Cut Rare Earth Material Supply to Lockheed Martin in Sanctions Move

  • Our Bureau
  • 05:20 PM, July 14, 2020
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China May Cut Rare Earth Material Supply to Lockheed Martin in Sanctions Move
Rare earth materials in Major US defence platforms: Congressional Research Service

China is likely to cut-off material supply including rare earths to Lockheed Martin besides imposing restrictions on its Chinese suppliers as part of sanctions for selling arms to Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Tuesday that China had decided to impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin. He did not elaborate on the details of the sanctions.

The immediate trigger for sanctions is a recent US approval of an arms deal to Taiwan involving the repair and recertification of PAC-3 air defense missiles. US-based arms producer Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the sale of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) air defense missiles to Taiwan.

The sanctions’ details were attributed to ‘analysts,’ in a Global Times article. The publication is seen as mirroring the views of the Communist Party of China.  Many of Lockheed Martin's key products, including F-35 fighter jets and Patriot missiles, rely on components made with rare earths, the article said.

China is the world's largest rare-earth exporter, and the US imports about 80 percent of its rare-earth needs from China.

While Lockheed Martin does not have any direct business in China, it may have parts and material suppliers operate there. China will restrict the supply chain of Lockheed Martin, including non-metals, metals and minerals including rare earths from China, via its suppliers who do have businesses with China.

Other component manufacturers and system designers that are related to China could also be restricted from doing business with Lockheed Martin as part of the sanctions, the report said.

Media reports in 2019 said that Exception PCB, a Chinese-owned company, was making circuit boards for F-35 fighter jets.

China May Cut Rare Earth Material Supply to Lockheed Martin in Sanctions Move
Rare earth materials in A & D applications

However, the Trump administration has started a program to replace several electronic parts, sourced from China, with components from friendly countries or shift the manufacture to US companies.

As part of a futuristic weapons program, Lockheed Martin is working on a small, high-power laser weapon along with the US Air Force Research Laboratory wants to test in a tactical fighter aircraft by 2021. Its active gain medium is a flexible optical fiber infused with a rare-earth element such as erbium or neodymium. It is not known if the rare earth elements are sourced from China.

China May Cut Rare Earth Material Supply to Lockheed Martin in Sanctions Move
A Chinese rare earth metals mine in Inner Mongolia
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