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Magnesium Alloys in Military Applications

Magnesium alloys are mixtures of magnesium (the lightest structural metal) with other metals called an alloy. Magnesium alloys are well-known for being the lightest structural alloys. They are made of magnesium, the lightest structural metal, mixed with other metal elements to improve the physical properties. These elements include manganese, aluminum, zinc, silicon, copper, zirconium, and rare-earth metals.


Magnesium alloys have a hexagonal lattice structure, which affects the fundamental properties of these alloys. Some of magnesium’s favourable properties include low specific gravity and a high strength-to-weight ratio. As a result, the material lends itself to a range of automotive, aerospace, industrial, electronic, biomedical, and commercial applications.


Magnesium alloys can be categorized into two groups: cast alloys and wrought alloys.

Cast alloys are basically made by pouring the molten liquid metal into a mould, within which it solidifies into the required shape. Common cast alloys of magnesium consist of different amounts – but not exceeding 10% – of aluminium, manganese and zinc as principal alloying elements. Other alloying elements have been recently used, as well, mostly to enhance creep resistance, such as zirconium and rare-earth metals. Besides, mechanical properties of cast alloys are augmented by heat treatments.

Wrought alloys, on the other hand, are alloys subjected to mechanical working, such as forging, extrusion, and rolling operations, to reach the desired shape. Aluminium, manganese and zinc are also the main alloying elements. Wrought alloys of magnesium are sorted into heat treatable and non-heat treatable alloys.


They suffer, however, from brittleness and poor formability at room temperature. Their formability increases with increasing temperature, but that requires high energy.


As the lightest engineering metal material, magnesium alloy has a series of unique properties such as light specific gravity, high specific strength and stiffness, good damping and thermal conductivity, strong electromagnetic shielding ability, and good vibration damping, which greatly meet the needs of aerospace, modern weapons and equipment, and other military fields.



Magnesium alloys are popular thanks to their high strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability and low density, which is roughly one-quarter that of steel and two-thirds that of aluminum. As a result of these properties, these alloys can drastically reduce the weight of aircraft, which in turn reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. At the same time, lighter magnesium alloys are more susceptible to corrosion, galling and wear if left uncoated.


Magnesium alloys, which are gaining popularity in the aerospace industry, must be able to withstand very harsh conditions.



Since the 1940’s Mg-alloys have been used for military applications, from aircraft components to ground vehicles. The drive for usage was primarily availability and lightweighting of military systems.


Magnesium alloy has the characteristics of lightweight, good specific strength and stiffness, good vibration damping performance, electromagnetic interference, and strong shielding ability, which can meet the requirements of military products for weight reduction, noise absorption, shock absorption, and radiation protection.  It occupies a very important position in aerospace and national defense construction and is the key structural material of aircraft, satellites, missiles, fighter and combat vehicles, and other weapons and equipment.


Magnesium alloy has many applications in military equipment, such as tank seat frames, vehicle length mirrors, gun length mirrors, gearbox boxes, engine filter seats, inlet, and outlet water pipes, air distributor seats, oil pump housing, water pump housing, oil heat exchanger, oil filter housing, valve chamber cover, breathing apparatus, and other vehicle parts; Tactical air defense missile support cabin and aileron skin, wall, strengthening frame, rudder plate, frame, and other missile and arrow parts; Fighters, bombers, helicopters, transport planes, airborne radar, ground-to-air missiles, carrier rockets, satellites, and other spacecraft aircraft components.


But the promise of widespread military usage was not met largely based on corrosion and flammability concerns, poor mechanical behavior and inferior ballistic response.


Magnesium Alloy Market

The magnesium alloy market is expected to register a CAGR of approximately 4%, globally, during the forecast period.

The increasing production activities of engineering components for weight reduction purposes without compromising on the overall strength and the growing need for vibration damping capacity are driving the market growth. Magnesium alloys possess excellent impact resistance, and they absorb shocks and vibrations while traveling, in turn, providing a subtle and comfortable drive to the consumers. Magnesium alloys are also eco-friendly, as these alloys are recyclable.


Magnesium alloy faces competition from other products, which is expected to hinder the market growth of magnesium alloy as a structural material.


Magnesium alloys have been increasingly used in the electronics industry, owing to the huge electronic production bases in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, for the production of cameras, cell phones, laptops, and portable media devices.


– According to the US International Trade Commission, China leads the market and exports a large quantity of magnesium alloys to Europe and North America, because of the large number of magnesium alloy manufacturing industries in the country.


Some of the major companies are Magontec Industry Ltd, Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corporation (AMACOR), US Magnesium LLC, and Smiths Advanced Metals, among others.


– The applications of magnesium alloys offer various benefits. They are employed in the engine block and wheels production, which, in turn, supports weight reduction, especially for sports cars.


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