FI: Medium/heavy military rotorcraft growth cycle nearing an end


In a new study, “The Market for Medium/Heavy Military Rotorcraft,” Forecast International projects that 4434 such rotorcraft will be produced from 2011 through 2020. The value of this production is estimated at US$100.4 billion in constant 2011 US dollars. Forecast International defines a rotorcraft as medium/heavy when it has a gross weight of at least 6804 kilograms (15 000lb).

The medium/heavy military rotorcraft market has been robust in recent years, the think tank says. The market has been boosted by continually high levels of helicopter acquisition by the US military and other operators, as well as by production ramp-ups of a number of new models that have recently entered service. The Forecast International study projects that annual production in the medium/heavy military market will increase through 2013.

According to the study, though, market growth will not continue indefinitely. Forecast International estimates that yearly production will begin declining as soon as 2014, and continue declining through 2020, as current procurement programmes run their course. Order backlogs for many models are declining, as new orders have not been coming in the door at sufficient rates to grow the backlogs or even maintain them at previous levels.

Meanwhile, the winding down of the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts, combined with competing domestic budget priorities, is putting downward pressure on US defence spending. According to Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski, “efforts to close the US budget deficit will result in future trade-offs that negatively impact Pentagon spending levels. Even without this budgetary pressure, though, the current modernization cycle in US military rotorcraft procurement would be nearing an end.”

The US is not the only nation that has been contributing to increased demand for medium/heavy military rotorcraft. A number of countries, though, are in the midst of acquisition programmes that will soon run their course. Very few nations are embarking on major new rotorcraft procurement programmes.

Forecast International projects that annual production of medium/heavy military rotorcraft will total 418 units in 2011, increase to 504 units by 2013, and then gradually but steadily decline to 366 units by 2020. The study also includes market share projections by company for the 10-year forecast timeframe. These projections indicate that Sikorsky will lead the market during the 2011-2020 period in both unit production and production value, FI says. Other major players in the market will include AgustaWestland, Boeing, Eurocopter, and Russian Helicopters.