Production of light military helicopter has been on the upswing since 2014, rising from the 160 units produced that year to 208 in 2016.
The improvement cycle has continued into 2017: Forecast International expects 217 light military rotorcraft to be built this year. However, a decline in annual build rates is expected to set in as soon as 2018.
The trend in annual unit production is projected to continue downward through 2023, when production of 73 rotorcraft is forecast. Afterward, though, some minor growth and longer-term stability is expected, with production rising to 87 units in 2024 and then remaining within a range of 75 to 87 units per year through at least 2030.
After a period of decline, defense spending is starting to trend upward in the U.S. and various other countries, sparked by concerns over global and regional instability. At least in the short term, the effects of this rising defense spending on the light military rotorcraft market will be mixed.
According to Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski:
“In the U.S., much of the near-term increase in defense spending will go mainly to readiness and RDT&E accounts, rather than to procurement.
The effects of increased defense spending on rotorcraft acquisition will be more apparent outside the U.S., where some countries could accelerate certain fleet modernisation plans.”
“While North America and Europe are currently the two largest regional markets for light military rotorcraft, Asia will grow in importance as a regional market over the next 15 years. Manufacturers will also be able to find sales opportunities in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.”
Jaworowski points out that, while military customers tend to favor medium/heavy rotorcraft, “the incorporation of advanced systems and technologies has boosted the capabilities of many of the newer light rotorcraft models on the market, narrowing somewhat the capabilities gap between these machines and their medium/heavy counterparts.” He adds, “Mission flexibility and multirole capability are key selling points for military customers. Manufacturers promote the versatility of each of the products in their portfolios – from attack models to transport/utility types.”
Forecast International projects that Airbus Helicopters will lead the light military rotorcraft market in unit production, producing 420 units for a 26.1 percent market share from 2017-2031. China’s Avicopter is expected to take second place with production of 301 units for an 18.7 percent share.
India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is third on production of 257 units, representing a 16 percent share. Bell Helicopter is projected to be fourth, with production of 225 units for a 14 percent share.
Forecast International is a major provider of ‘Market Intelligence and Consulting in the areas of aerospace, defence, power systems and military electronics’.