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Seal Team Six has Rare Earths to thank for killer apps

In Rare Earth Woes Could Mean Trouble for U.S. Stealth Fleet, Christine Parthemore takes a look behind the headlines at the materials that give the U.S. Military its high-tech edge:

“Ever since Osama bin Laden’s demise, aviation sleuths have been trying to figure out what was the mystery copter that Delivered Seal Team Six.  I’ve been pondering a much geekier question:  what was in the mystery copter?”

Answer:  A good dusting of Rare Earths elements, alloyed with other critical metals — which of course enter the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) supply chain from lower-tier defense contractors dependent on a steady diet of Chinese Rare Earths.

My own recent off-the-record discussion with a defense industry contact suggests that Seal Team Six enjoys a range of gadgets employing Rare Earths, from their night vision systems and rifle scopes to the ill-fated chopper so state-of-the-art it had to be explosively “dis-assembled” before the Seals left the bin Laden compound.

I especially like Parthemore’s recommendation that metals supply disruptions should be incorporated into future Pentagon war-gaming scenarios.  If the U.S. doesn’t reckon with the geo-politics of its metals and minerals supply, it may turn out that “resource wars” isn’t just a metaphor.