Changes in Competitive Landscape Mark Medium/Heavy Military Rotorcraft Market

By Ray Jaworowski, Senior Aerospace Analyst, Forecast International.

In its latest study on the medium/heavy military rotorcraft market, Forecast International is projecting that 4,744 such rotorcraft will be produced from 2016 through 2025.  The value of this production is estimated at $115 billion in constant 2016 U.S. dollars.  In general, we define a medium/heavy military rotorcraft as one having a gross weight of 6,804 kilograms (15,000 lb) or greater.

In terms of unit production, Russian Helicopters is projected to be the leading manufacturer of medium/heavy military rotorcraft during the 2016-2025 timeframe.  Sikorsky is projected to lead the market in terms of production value during the 10-year period.

Ownership of Sikorsky changed hands in the fall of 2015 when the Connecticut-based company was acquired by Lockheed Martin from its previous parent United Technologies Corp.  The acquisition provides Lockheed Martin with an OEM role in the rotorcraft market.  Though it had not manufactured helicopters for decades, Lockheed Martin had nevertheless remained heavily involved in the rotorcraft industry, often as a systems integration specialist.  In such a role, the company was already teamed with Sikorsky on such programs as the U.S. Air Force HH-60W combat rescue helicopter and the U.S. Navy VH-92 presidential transport helicopter.

By combining its existing systems integration expertise with Sikorsky’s development and manufacturing capabilities, Lockheed Martin has very quickly become a major force in the military rotorcraft market.  One of the more intriguing results of the acquisition is that Lockheed Marin now has a hand in both of the teams in the U.S. military’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) program.  The firm was already partnered with Bell on the V-280 Valor, and its new subsidiary Sikorsky is teamed with Boeing on the SB-1 Defiant.  The JMR program is the technology demonstration precursor to the new Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.  The goal of the FVL program is to develop and produce a new series of rotorcraft aimed at future U.S. utility, attack, scout, and maritime helicopter replacement needs.

Another recent change to the competitive landscape in the rotorcraft market is the rebranding in early 2016 of AgustaWestland as Finmeccanica Helicopters, a move that has seen the longtime helicopter manufacturer take the name of its parent organization.  This was part of an overall restructuring of the Finmeccanica parent firm from a financial holding company into a fully integrated corporation with diverse interests in a number of industries.

The study indicates that annual production of medium/heavy military rotorcraft will decline somewhat over the next 10 years.  Re-equipment cycles in large geographic markets such as North America and Europe are coming to an end, as the militaries in these regions have largely filled, or are well on their way to filling, their present modernization needs.  At the same time, in real terms, military spending is under serious downward pressure in many nations.  Despite the prospect of a declining market, though, the medium/heavy military sector is still quite important to rotorcraft manufacturers as it is, and will remain, the most lucrative segment by far of the overall rotorcraft market.

Forecast International’s Rotorcraft Forecast provides complete coverage of the market for both piston-powered and turbine-powered rotorcraft, ranging in scope from the two-seat Robinson R22 piston up to the giant Mil Mi-26 heavy-lift turbine helicopter and the Bell/Boeing V-22 tiltrotor aircraft. Included in the reports are production forecasts, a Forecast Rationale detailing the basis for the forecast, the rotorcraft’s price range and technical specifications, a program history, and recent developments.

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