Research group Forecast International says US military spending may have unintentionally painted American rotorcraft into a corner regarding medium and heavy helicopters.
A new report, titled The Market for Medium/Heavy Military Rotorcraft highlights the fact that the medium/heavy military market has largely become a competition between all-new rotorcraft from non-US manufacturers and improved derivative models, based on older designs, from US firms.
“This situation came about primarily because of the US military’s preference, in years past, to procure improved versions of helicopters already in its fleet rather than pursue the development of new rotorcraft,” the company says.
Whatever the particular merits of this approach may have been, the result was that US manufacturers responded by generally focusing their energies on derivative products rather than clean-sheet designs. US manufacturers thus increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage on the world market, as new versions of older US helicopters compete for sales against new designs from non-US companies.
The report predicts that 3924 new built medium and heavy lift helicopters will be produced up to 2018.
“The value of this production is an estimated $88.1 billion in constant 2009 US dollars.”
Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski notes, “The medium/heavy military sector is the largest segment, as measured by dollar volume of production, of the overall rotorcraft market.”
A new trend, though, may be emerging in U.S. military rotorcraft procurement. The US Army has long-term plans for two new-start development programs: the Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) rotorcraft and the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) rotorcraft.
The JHL rotorcraft is envisioned as an all-new heavy-lift transport to succeed the Army`s Chinook fleet, while the JMR rotorcraft is aimed at the service`s future attack and utility helicopter replacement efforts.
However, the future of the JHL program has become a bit clouded, with its incorporation into a joint program with the US Air Force for a new theatre lift aircraft.
The Forecast International study generally defines as “medium/heavy” those military rotorcraft that have a maximum gross weight of at least 6804 kilograms (15 000 lb).
The study contains manufacturer market share projections for the 2009-2018 time period, and these projections indicate 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.