Data generated by Forecast International through its innovative Platinum Forecast System 4.0 indicate that a number of planned new-start acquisition programs will kick-start demand in the long term in the light military rotorcraft market. Forecast International projects that 1,630 light military rotorcraft will be produced during the 15-year timeframe between 2018 and 2032.
The value of this production is estimated at $24.4 billion (in constant 2018 U.S. dollars). In general, the Connecticut-based defense intelligence firm defines a light military rotorcraft as having a maximum gross weight of less than 6,804 kilograms (15,000 lb).
Production of light military rotorcraft is forecast to decline to 146 units in 2018, from 211 in 2017. A rebound to 154 units is expected in 2019, but annual output is then projected to decline over the next several years, reaching double-digit levels for the first time since 2006. In 2026, however, annual production is projected to once again begin rising, returning to triple digits by 2029 and remaining there for the remainder of the forecast period.
The near-term decline is due to current re-equipment cycles coming to an end in the U.S. and much of Europe. But the long-term outlook is considerably brighter. According to Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski, “Driving the return to market growth in the long term of our forecast will be production ramp-ups for such new programs as the French military’s Helicoptere Interarmees Leger (HIL) program, the South Korean Army’s Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) effort, and the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) project.”
The Airbus Helicopters H160M has been selected for the HIL program, while the LAH is being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) from the Airbus Helicopters H155. Contractor selection for the FARA program, though, is only in the earliest stages. The FARA platform is intended to fill the armed scout role for the U.S. Army, and could also be used to replace various other light helicopters in U.S. military fleets. Jaworowski stated, “The manufacturer selected to produce the FARA platform will find itself in a position to possibly garner orders for hundreds of rotorcraft for the U.S. military, with export sales potentially adding to this total.”
Forecast International projects that production for the FARA program will be worth an estimated $2.1 billion by 2032, representing fully 8.8 percent of the market by value and 7.3 percent of the market by unit production. In addition, production of the FARA platform will continue well beyond 2032.
Overall, Forecast International’s market share projections indicate that China’s Avicopter will lead the light military rotorcraft market in unit production, producing 330 units over the 15-year forecast period for a market share of 20.2 percent. Airbus Helicopters is next, with production of 295 units for an 18.1 percent share. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) of India is third on production of 267 units, representing a 16.4 percent share. Bell is projected to be fourth, with production of 174 units for a 10.7 percent share. Finally, KAI of South Korea will rank fifth with production of 137 rotorcraft for an 8.4 percent market share.