Recommendation 4a:8 The DoD should establish broad manufacturing initiatives—using the ManTech program framework as a model—that encompass a variety of lightweighting strategies, materials, and technologies, with the goal of achieving quantum improvements in performance, affordability, sustainability, and reliability.
Recommendation 4b:9 In concert with other government agencies, the DoD should explore the merits and requirements of parallel commercial markets that could reduce the development and acquisition costs of military vehicles as well as accelerate the availability and use of lightweighting materials and technologies.
Finding 5: The committee believes that there remains insufficient high-level DoD awareness of and stratetic vision for ensuring sustained domestic supplies of materials that are essential to the realization of effective lightweighting and would facilitate revolutionary advances in military systems. Although there is growing recognition of the importance of individual metals and rare-earth elements, the domestic availability, supply, sustainment, maintenance, and manufacturing of lightweighting-enabling materials, such as high-performance SiC fibers, thick-section magnesium, and polyethylene fibers, must become targeted priorities of the DoD for lightweighting to become widespread.
One existing program, the Defense Production Act Title III program, includes a number of materials projects relevant to lightweighting, such as production of SiC powder for ceramic armor, low-cost titanium, and continuous-filament boron fiber, but does not include some of the materials and manufacturing processes that the committee believes would have the greatest impact on lightweighting.
The cost of advanced materials extraction, reduction, and processing can be prohibitive, and there is a lack of domestic manufacturing infrastructure to fabricate the primary metal alloys or the intermediate engineering forms, or to manufacture final, shaped products. This lack of infrastructure affects opportunities for use of lightweighting materials in defense and civilian applications.
Recommendation 5: In cooperation with other agencies, the DoD should establish a federal investment strategy that (a) determines which structural materials are most important to future lightweighting and (b) establishes the resources to ensure continuous development of these materials and their associated manufacturing processes.
As part of this holistic approach, the existing Title III program should be expanded to include a larger number of materials critical to lightweighting of military aircraft, vessels, and vehicles. In expanding the program, the DoD should recognize the need for the long-term, continuous development of these materials and of the manufacturing techniques and capacity needed to produce them.
In summary, the committee’s view is that lightweighting materials, design, and technologies could have far-reaching benefits: implementation of lightweighting as defined above not only would address optimization of military vehicles but also could have security and economic benefits for the nation: