Long-Term Instability Seen for Light Military Rotorcraft Market
(Source: Forecast International; issued September 27, 2010)
NEWTOWN, Conn. --- In a new study, “The Market for Light Military Rotorcraft,” Forecast International projects that 1,941 rotorcraft will be built between 2010 and 2019. The value of this production is estimated at $23.4 billion in constant 2010 U.S. dollars. The Forecast International study generally defines a light military rotorcraft as one with a maximum gross weight of less than 6,804 kilograms (15,000 pounds), though the study does make an occasional exception to this rule.

In terms of annual production, Forecast International projects that the light military rotorcraft market will see near-term growth, but longer-term instability. Yearly production is forecast to steadily rise over the first five years of the forecast period: from 187 units in 2010 to a peak of 220 units in 2014. However, starting in 2015, annual production is forecast to track downward, falling to 181 units by 2019.

According to the study, the near-term growth is largely a continuation of the expansion that the market has experienced over the past few years. The light military rotorcraft segment has been boosted by high acquisition levels on the part of military operators, particularly the U.S. armed forces, as well as by an influx of new models that have recently entered service, sometimes after years of development.

However, Forecast International believes that market growth will not be sustained indefinitely. Current acquisition programs will run their course, and few new major procurements of light military helicopters are in the works.

According to Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski, “Defense spending in the U.S. and much of Europe is under severe pressure due to competing domestic priorities as well as growing budget deficits.” Meanwhile, with U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, further downward pressure on U.S. defense spending can be expected.

The decline in the market after 2015 will be gradual, however, and manufacturers will still be able to find sales opportunities in the midst of a slowing market. And the good news for the industry is that civil helicopter build rates will be rising at the same time that military helicopter production is forecast to be declining. Increasing demand in the civil rotorcraft market will more than offset the slumping military market.

Manufacturer market share projections contained within the Forecast International study indicate that Eurocopter will be the leading manufacturer of light military rotorcraft during the 2010-2019 time period. The European company is expected to rank first whether the market is measured in units built or in the monetary value of production. AgustaWestland is projected to be second in unit production during the forecast timeframe, followed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bell.

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