4 384 medium to heavy military rotorcraft to be sold over next decade; market in downturn


The market for medium to heavily military helicopters is predicted to slow down over the next several years, with production declining from 500 to 400 units a year by 2017, according to a new study.

In its study, “The Market for Medium/Heavy Military Rotorcraft,” Forecast International projects that that 4 384 medium/heavy rotorcraft (with a gross weight of at least 6 804 kilograms/15 000 lb) will be produced during the 10-year period from 2012 through 2021. The value of this production is US$104.1 billion.

Forecast International projects that annual production of medium/heavy military rotorcraft will decline from 512 units in 2012 to 399 units in 2017. In 2018, production is anticipated to rise slightly, to 402 units, before resuming a decline the following year. Production in 2021, the final year of the forecast period, is expected to total 376 units.

This expected downturn in the market follows a period of strong market growth that has been fueled by high levels of rotorcraft acquisition by the U.S. military and others. However, defense spending in many nations is increasingly under pressure, and very few major new military helicopter procurement programs have materialized to keep production rates at manufacturers rising or even stable. At the same time, many key ongoing acquisition programs are already several years into their production runs, and will soon run their course. Others have been stretched out, with annual production lots reduced in size, Forecast International notes.

Plans for new-start acquisition programs are in particular jeopardy. In the U.S., the Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) program has already been terminated. The Navy’s VXX presidential transport helicopter could soon follow, or at least be significantly delayed. For now, the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) project looks like it will proceed, but this could change.

The longer term Joint Multi-Role (JMR) program, if allowed to proceed, is an important effort for the U.S. military and the rotorcraft industry. This project is aimed at developing a new rotorcraft family to meet future U.S. attack, scout, and utility rotorcraft needs. Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski said, “The JMR program promises to develop the U.S. military’s first all-new medium/heavy rotorcraft since the V-22.” Program plans call for the initial JMR-based rotorcraft to enter service in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

The Forecast International study also includes projections of manufacturer market shares for the 10-year forecast period. The study indicates that Sikorsky will lead the market in both unit production and production value during the 2012-2021 timeframe. Sikorsky has a solid business foundation based primarily, though not exclusively, on U.S. Army procurement of its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. AgustaWestland, Boeing, Eurocopter, and Russian Helicopters are among the other key players in the medium/heavy military rotorcraft market.