Ten-year market for missile decoy programmes valued at $1.3 billion


Over the next 10 years, $1.3 billion will be spent on key decoy and dispenser programmes, according to new research by Forecast International.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put a strain on defense budgets and production schedules, especially in the hardest hit nations, major programmes are moving forward steadily, along with development and production of their critical supporting systems, Forecast International said.

The decoy and dispenser technology in the market forecast provides indispensable self-protection capabilities for vulnerable frontline aircraft and naval vessels and the personnel who operate them.

“While great strides are being made in the development and production of IR countermeasures for more sophisticated methods of attack, the long conflict-tested decoys discussed in this analysis have proven to be among the most affordable and dependable defense systems on the market,” said Senior Analyst Andrew Dardine. “Representative programs in this segment of the larger Electronic Warfare systems market include the ALE-50, ALE-55, Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), and BriteCloud airborne systems and the NULKA naval decoy.”

The next several years should see steady rates of production of the ALE-55 for a variety of US Navy airborne applications. US procurement funding for the decoy is provided in the Department of Defense’s Airborne Expendable Countermeasures programme, which purchases countermeasure self-protection devices for all Navy and Marine Corps rotary-wing aircraft and tactical and other fixed-wing aircraft. Through the Airborne Expendable Countermeasures (AECM) programme, $361 million is scheduled to be spent through 2024 on ALE-55 units and other systems for Navy and Marine Corps applications.

The ALE-50 expendable towed will also be produced over the analysis period for several applications even as newer, more advanced systems cut into the market. The system can equip a variety of aircraft, including the F/A-18, F-15, F-16, and B-1B. Typically, an aircraft is deployed with three or four ALE-50s for a single mission.

The widely distributed ALE-50 will also be the object of significant support and maintenance contracts. Technical support contracts for the ALE-50 were awarded to prime contractor Raytheon in June and July 2018. These orders would start enhancement work on the decoy and related systems for F/A-18E/F aircraft for the U.S. Navy as well as Australia, Canada, Kuwait, and Switzerland.

At present, the Saab Gripen fighter – one of Europe’s most significant fighter aircraft – provides the best production prospect for the BriteCloud decoy system. It is already in active service with the U.K. Royal Air Force aboard Tornado GR4 aircraft, and prime contractor Leonardo is actively promoting BriteCloud to air forces worldwide.

In May 2019, the US Department of Defense evaluated BriteCloud under the US Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme. The Air National Guard led this testing by evaluating BriteCloud launched from countermeasure dispensers installed on US Air Force ANG aircraft.

Meanwhile, the all-important MALD programme is meeting a significant part of the countermeasures needs of the US Air Force and Navy. In addition to acting as a decoy, this system is also available in a jammer version. Procurement by the Air Force will reach 3,000 units, split between the decoy and jammer versions. As U.S. Air Force orders fall, the Navy will begin making its own MALD purchases. A version for use on naval combat aircraft (the MALD-N) will be available in the very near future.

Production of decoy systems for naval platforms will also comprise a major part of the market. The vulnerability of vessels and personnel to a new generation of increasingly sophisticated sea-skimming missiles has only increased in recent years. The NULKA decoy system should be made in steady numbers through the analysis period for the U.S. and Australian navies as well as several international customers.

In November 2017, BAE Systems Australia announced a $200 million NULKA upgrade effort. The 20-year program will involve the development of a new launch system and supporting technology to enhance the system’s effectiveness. It will also involve installation of new launch systems on ANZAC frigates.