Military applications of rare earths

Why can a patriot missile shoot down scud more easily? Why did the M1 always fire earlier and with better accuracy, even though the main guns of the Soviet t-72 tank and the M1 did not differ much in their direct firing distance? Why can f-22 fighters cruise at supersonic speeds? …

These “whys” outline the great advances in military technology today, as well as the upheavals and conflicts of the past two decades. For each “why” there is a specific and clear answer. But, from a materials science perspective, “rare earths” can solve all of these problems at once.

The development and application of rare earths have provided a powerful engine for military science and technology in recent decades.

In a sense, it is rare earth that makes all the fantastic military miracles in the gulf war and the asymmetric control capability of the us military in the post-cold war local wars.

Because of this, the development and utilization of rare earth also breeds great danger. On the one hand, more and more countries and military forces are competing for and developing rare earths to gain asymmetrical control over their rivals, which breeds the risk of an arms race. On the other hand, states that acquire such capabilities are more inclined to settle disputes by threat or war. In response, China, as the world’s largest rare earth reserve country, needs to cool down this arms race from the source, strictly restrict the mining of rare earth and immediately ban the export of rare earth.

In fact, the Chinese government has paid little attention to rare earth development. As early as the 1950s, premier zhou enlai included rare earth development in China’s first scientific and technological development plan. China set up a leading group on rare earths in 1975, and even after much restructuring of the state council, the specialized regulatory body for the industry has remained in place. In 1991, rare earths were listed as minerals under state protection. From the perspective of rare earth protection policies, specialized institutions, stable industrial policies and the overall control of the state are consistent. Even petrochina does not have such treatment. However, the achievements of decades of development of the rare earth industry have basically remained at a low level of selling resources.


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