Boeing will no longer purchase titanium from Russia, a move coming as Western companies face increased pressure to cut Russian ties following that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, the actual ability of firms to transfer money to and from Russia has been stymied by sanctions.
“We have suspended purchasing titanium from Russia,” Boeing says in a 7 March statement. “Our inventory and diversity of titanium sources provide sufficient supply for airplane production, and we will continue to take the right steps to ensure long-term continuity.”
Boeing’s statement does not specify the company’s reasons for ending its purchase of titanium from Russia, nor does it mentioned Ukraine or Russia’s invasion.
Boeing did not respond to a request for further comment.
“Boeing has substantial titanium inventory due in part to an initiative several years ago to diversify our global sources,” the statement adds.
However, Boeing – and competitor Airbus – relies heavily on supply of titanium from Russian firm VSMPO-Avisma, a company that Boeing helped become a leading titanium producer in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The US airframer sources some 45-40% of its titanium from VSMPO, says aerospace analyst Kevin Michaels with AeroDynamic Advisory.
Boeing uses that titanium to produce 787 structures, and VSMPO forges 787 and 777 landing gears, analysts say.
The Russian firm operates “gigantic forges” and is among the world’s leading suppliers of “near-final-form titanium forgings”, BofA Securities analyst Ron Epstein said during a 4 March webinar. He adds that VSMPO is currently the only supplier of 787 landing gears.
Boeing could potentially source titanium from other countries – Japan and Kazakhstan are leading producers, says Epstein. However, he says sourcing titanium from Kazakhstan is nearly impossible because most Kazakh titanium goes through Russia at the port of Saint Petersburg.
Boeing last November signed a long-term supply agreement with VSMPO covering titanium components for commercial aircraft, a move that maintained the Russian firm’s position as the largest titanium supplier to the US airframer. The pair also have a joint project in Russia, the Ural Boeing Manufacturing joint venture.
Aerospace analysts have speculated that an end to Russian titanium supply will have limited immediate impact on Boeing largely because the company has stockpiled titanium and is now producing aircraft at reduced rates. Boeing is not even delivering 787s due to manufacturing quality issues.
VSMPO rose to become a leading global supplier of aerospace titanium thanks partly to help from Boeing, according to a former Boeing executive who declines to be identified.
After establishing a presence in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Boeing brought its certification expertise to a partnership with the Russian titanium supplier, this person says.