Near-term growth in store for light military rotorcraft market


Forecast International’s new “The Market for Light Military Rotorcraft” study projects a total of 2026 helicopters will be produced in this market segment during the 2009-2018 time period.

The value of this production is estimated at $20.8 billion in constant 2009 US dollars.

The Forecast International study projects that annual production of light military rotorcraft will rise each year from 2009, when 163 are expected to be produced, through 2014, when production of 227 are forecast.

Helping to drive this near-term market growth are an influx of new light helicopter models that have either just entered service or will soon do so. These new models comprise a mix of all-new types and improved versions of existing helicopter models.

Also contributing to the growth in the market is continuing acquisition by the US armed forces of significant numbers of light helicopters.

Bell is building AH-1Z attack helicopters and UH-1Y transports for the US Marine Corps, while Eurocopter is producing UH-72A models for the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program.

On the horizon is the impending launch of another US Army helicopter procurement effort, the Armed Aerial Scout program, which is expected to involve the acquisition of more than 500 helicopters to replace OH-58D Kiowa Warriors in the Army fleet.

“Though not even formally launched, the AAS program is already drawing considerable interest from rotorcraft manufacturers both in the US and beyond,” said Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski.

As examples, Jaworowski notes that unofficial proposals have been made by Boeing, Eurocopter, and Sikorsky regarding potential AAS candidate rotorcraft.

After 2014, the study’s projections indicate that production of light military rotorcraft will decline somewhat for a couple of years before rebounding by the end of the forecast period. 

The study predicts that, over the 10-year timeframe, Eurocopter will lead the market in unit production, with Bell, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, and AgustaWestland capturing the next three spots.

In general, the Forecast International study defines as “light” those military rotorcraft with a maximum gross weight of less than 6804kg (15 000 pounds), though the study does makes some minor exceptions to this rule in determining the composition of the light class.

The Forecast International study generally defines “medium/heavy” as military rotorcraft with a maximum gross weight of at least 6804kg (15 000 lb).

The study projects Sikorsky will lead the medium/heavy military rotorcraft market during this timeframe in both unit production and value of production.

The European consortium NH Industries, which produces the popular NH90 multirole helicopter, is expected to rank second in unit production and third in value of production. Second place in production value goes to the Bell/Boeing partnership that produces the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft.