Alcoa Howmet Gets DOD Contract

June 30, 2006
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WHITEHALL — Alcoa Howmet Castings will be part of a $1.3 million contract funded by the 2007 defense appropriations bill to help the Department of Defense cut costs.

The project combines Alcoa’s design capabilities with Howmet’s titanium manufacturing capabilities, said Michael Pepper, vice president and general manager of Howmet Products and Services.

Howmet has been part of the DOD’s Advanced Aluminum Aerostructure Initiative, and Pepper said they hope to do the same type of work with titanium. The initiative was an aluminum intensive process with Alcoa in which the company leveraged Alcoa’s design, analysis, testing and prototyping with the goal of reducing costs on aluminum aerostructures with equal weight and equal performance on products, Pepper said.

The same process will be used with titanium. The AlcoaTechnologyCenter in Pittsburgh, Pa., will determine which part of the aerospace structure will be used for testing and prototyping, and then the prototyping and production work will be done at Howmet in Whitehall.

“We don’t have a targeted component yet,” he said. “We’ll probably be looking at trying to demonstrate this technology on the F-35 (Joint Striker Fighter), the V-22, F/A-22 or the F-18. Those are kind of the four programs we want to go take a peek in and sort out which component we’ll go after.”

Once the component is produced, Pepper said its use will be demonstrated for the Air Force.

“What we would like to do is demonstrate the capabilities of what we can achieve on a component, and certainly, as we move forward, take that technology and spread it across other parts,” he said. “We think there is significant opportunity for costs savings, especially in titanium.”

Pepper said he believes costs could be reduced by 30 percent.

Though it is highly unlikely that an entire aircraft would be produced by Howmet, Pepper said the project has potential.

“It’s hard to say early on here exactly how big this could really be. We’ll see how it plays,” he said. “If things go well, it could mean a lot of opportunity for us in the longer term.”

Pepper said government contracts are not rare for Howmet, which employs 2,500 people.

“It’s not unusual for us to be involved in government-funded programs where it’s targeted for a specific technology,” he said. “We’ve been making titanium components in Whitehall for about 30 years.”

The company has been working on airframe structure components for five or six years, Pepper said.    

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