Military protection and missile defence drives electro-optical market

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Forecast International’s “The Market for Airborne and Space-Based Electro-Optical Systems” projects that an estimated $24.75 billion will be spent on 36 major airborne and space-based EO systems and programmes over the next decade.

Approximately 45% of this value represents product sales.

“Electro-optical airborne devices such as infrared countermeasures (IRCM) systems protect both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and its crew,” says Theresa Hartley, Aerospace and Defense Analyst and author of this study.

Hartley adds “EO systems are the ‘eyes of the military’ that protect troops and spy on adversaries, and are also vital to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions that support ground troops.”

According to Hartley the funding forecast in her analysis is consistent with the US military’s commitment to increase ISR support to the warfighter.”

ISR support in-theatre improves mission effectiveness and reduces soldier and civilian fatalities. For example, fighter aircraft mounted with targeting pods monitor “areas of interest” and pass information to ground commanders.

Several research and development programmes are under way that exploit emerging EO technologies for military operations.

Among the leading R&D programmes are the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS), and Space-Based Infrared System-High (SBIRS-High) programmes, which are dedicated to supporting a US missile defence capability against intercontinental and theatre ballistic missiles.

The Airborne Laser (ABL), remains a major program despite taking a significant funding cut.

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems will hold the top three spots in the airborne and space-based EO market over the next 10 years in terms of value.

But notably, over $4.4 billion has been allocated for the Army’s Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) and Navy’s EPX Airborne ISR platform programmes – programmes for which contracts awards have yet to be announced. Other top performers in the decade ahead will include Boeing, Raytheon, Finmeccanica and Thales.



Pic: The South African Carl Zeiss LEO-III