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June 17 (Reuters) - Alcoa Inc plans to invest $25 million at its power and propulsion facility in Hampton, Virginia, to start production of lighter-weight jet engine blades and meet growing demand from the aerospace sector, it said on Tuesday.
As part of a project starting this month and lasting until the fourth quarter of next year, the company will add equipment for a new production line and modify existing machinery to produce blades made of nickel-based super alloys for next-generation aircraft engines, it said.
The move will add at least 75 new full-time employees over three years.
While the financial size of the project is small relative to Alcoa's size, it marks a further shift by the U.S. aluminum producer toward making high-strength nickel-based alloys that can tolerate hot temperatures for jet engines and turbines without using aluminum.
Last month, the company said it will build a plant to make nickel-based super alloy jet engine parts for commercial aircraft in Indiana.
These investments are part of the company's efforts to boost profits from its downstream businesses, which makes products like truck wheels and aircraft fuselages, and offset weak primary aluminum prices.
Alcoa has forecast the global aerospace market will grow by between 8 percent and 9 percent this year, driven by strong demand for both large commercial aircraft and regional jets and continued growth in the business jet market. (Reporting by Josephine Mason in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)