4 700 medium and heavy helicopters to be sold over next decade


A total of 4 744 medium and heavy military rotorcraft will be produced from 2016 through 2025, according to a new report, which says that the value of this production is estimated at $115 billion.

In its new study, “The Market for Medium/Heavy Military Rotorcraft,” Forecast International projects that Russian Helicopters will be the leading manufacturer of medium/heavy military rotorcraft during the 2016-2025 timeframe. Sikorsky is projected to lead the market in terms of production value during the 10-year period.

The study defines a medium/heavy military rotorcraft as one having a gross weight of 6,804 kilograms (15,000 lb) or greater. Sample products in this range include the Airbus Helicopters H215M/H225M, Bell-Boeing V-22, Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Finmeccanica Helicopters AW101, NH Industries NH90, and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

Forecast International noted that ownership of Sikorsky changed hands in the fall of 2015 when Lockheed Martin acquired the Connecticut-based company from United Technologies Corp. The acquisition provides Lockheed Martin with an OEM role in the rotorcraft market. Though it had not manufactured helicopters for decades, Lockheed Martin had nevertheless remained heavily involved in the rotorcraft industry, often as a systems integration specialist. In such a role, the company was already teamed with Sikorsky on such programs as the U.S. Air Force HH-60W combat rescue helicopter and the U.S. Navy VH-92 presidential transport helicopter.

Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski said, “By combining its existing systems integration expertise with Sikorsky’s development and manufacturing capabilities, Lockheed Martin has very quickly become a major force in the military rotorcraft market.”

One of the more intriguing results of the acquisition is that Lockheed Martin now has a hand in both of the teams in the U.S. military’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) program. The firm was already partnered with Bell on the V-280 Valor, and its new subsidiary Sikorsky is teamed with Boeing on the SB-1 Defiant. The JMR program is the technology demonstration precursor to the new Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. The goal of the FVL program is to develop and produce a new series of rotorcraft aimed at future U.S. utility, attack, scout, and maritime helicopter replacement needs.

Another recent change to the competitive landscape in the rotorcraft market is the rebranding in early 2016 of AgustaWestland as Finmeccanica Helicopters, a move that has seen the longtime helicopter manufacturer take the name of its parent organization. This was part of an overall restructuring of the Finmeccanica parent firm from a financial holding company into a fully integrated corporation with diverse interests in a number of industries.

The Forecast International study indicates that annual production of medium/heavy military rotorcraft will decline somewhat over the next 10 years. Jaworowski said, “Re-equipment cycles in such large geographic markets as North America and Europe are coming to an end, as the militaries in these regions have largely filled, or are well on their way to filling, their present modernization needs. At the same time, in real terms, military spending is under serious downward pressure in many nations. Despite the prospect of a declining market, though, the medium/heavy military sector is still quite important to rotorcraft manufacturers as it is, and will remain, the most lucrative segment by far of the overall rotorcraft market.”