Shrinking defense budgets affect military aircraft industry

Aug. 30, 2013 at 4:45 PM
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NEWTOWN, Conn., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Overall production of military aircraft will decline in the next 10 years, mainly as a result of shrinking defense budgets, according to a new study.

Market research and analysis firm Forecast International said the downturn will primarily affect Western-built aircraft, but some segments of military aircraft production are anticipated to grow as Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter and Airbus Military's A400M transport/tanker enter full production.

"According to FI's Platinum 2.0 Forecast System, about 11,940 military aircraft, worth an estimated $480 billion, will roll off production lines during the 2013-2022 period," the company said. "Yearly production will peak at 1,367 units in 2014, drop to a low of 1,095 in 2018, and then rise slightly to 1,122 by 2020 before tapering off for the remainder of the period.

"Rotorcraft will account for 52 percent of all units produced during the 2013-2022 timeframe, with fixed-wing aircraft accounting for the remaining 48 percent.

"However, in terms of value of production, the more expensive fixed-wing group will outpace the rotorcraft segment by a wide margin over the 10-year timeframe: 72 percent to 28 percent."

The Forecast International analysis determined production of fighter aircraft will remain the largest segment in military aircraft in terms of production and monetary value. It estimated about 2,900 fighters -- worth nearly $183 billion -- will be produced in the 2013-2022 period.

The upside for buyers is that the advanced aircraft require less maintenance and will be easier to upgrade than previous fighters and can perform more missions so less are required for operations. The downside: cost in the earlier part of the forecast period.

The fighter segment will dominated by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Eurofighter, Dassault and Saab, the report predicted.

In the military transport area, it is expected 848 new aircraft, worth $66.9 billion, will be delivered. The peak year is expected to be 2018, partly the result of high-rate production of Airbus Military's new A400M transport.

Other areas:

Trainer Aircraft -- Forecast International said production of military trainers will be about 1,500 fixed-wing aircraft, from 186 planes this year to a high of more than 200 annually in 2014 and 2015, followed by a drop in 2016 as the U.S. Defense Department ends procurement of T-6 turboprops. A program for jet trainers that will begins after 2022 will reinvigorate the sector.

Rotorcraft -- The growth period of light military rotorcraft (below 15,000 pounds) is ending.

"Current acquisition programs are running their course, and few significant new procurement programs have emerged that would help keep production rates rising, or even stable, at rotorcraft manufacturers," the report said.

Light military rotorcraft production during the forecast period is projected to total about 1,425 units.

Forecast International predicted a growing market for medium and heavy military helicopters is also at an end and will enter a five-year period of decline.

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