The fighter market is forecast to see increased growth during the next decade, primarily because of the impact of the Lockheed Martin F-35/Joint Strike Fighter program. The U.S. military is by far the world's largest potential market for fighters, and the Pentagon has centered its future fighter requirements entirely on the F-35 JSF program.
From 2011 through 2020, general aviation aircraft manufacturers are expected to deliver 18,000 piston-engine models and 6,000 turboprops valued at $8 billion and $20.5 billion, respectively, which is encouraging considering the ongoing slump in output. However, the near- and mid-term outlook won't produce any cheers.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program took up a lot of real estate in the national and international press and trade media in 2010, and the critical attention will continue into 2011. The sheer size of the program to supply the U.S. military and partner nations with a stealthy and relatively affordable strike fighter, coupled with questions about prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s ability to stick to the schedule and meet cost targets, makes it the No. 1 target of industry speculation.
The military transport market will see production of almost 900 new aircraft over the next decade, but the raw numbers obscure major changes in the landscape. Production of the Boeing C-17 could end, leaving the strategic transport market to the Airbus Military A400M, while the Lockheed Martin C-130J will face a challenge for the tactical sector from Embraer’s new KC-390.
Production of piston-powered general aviation (GA) aircraft had reached a plateau and begun to fall even before the credit crisis hit the world economy in the autumn of 2008. Deliveries plummeted in 2009 to a level not seen since the 1990s, and little improvement was seen in 2010.
Manufacturers of military fixed-wing trainers are forecast to produce slightly more than 1,600 aircraft worth almost $19 billion during the next decade. A number of programs are underway or are being launched to replace fleets built in the 1970s and 1980s—or in the case of the U.S. Air Force’s T-38s the 1960s—but the market for trainers will be much smaller than it was back then.
During the past decade, world fighter production totaled only around 2,500 units, but over the next 10 years, annual deliveries are set to rise. Unlike the 1970s and 1980s, when large numbers of dedicated ground-attack aircraft were produced in addition to fighters, the modern market for combat aircraft is focused almost exclusively on multirole fighters that can handle both the air superiority and attack missions. The U.S. Air Force recently proposed building a new bomber, but this program is not expected to deliver an aircraft until the 2020s.
Piston- and turboprop-powered general aviation (GA) aircraft manufacturers are poised to turn out more than 22,000 aircraft worth $25 billion over the next 10 years. This total excludes production of the new category of Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
Deliveries of civil rotorcraft will decline sharply over the next few years as manufacturers suffer from a steep downward slope in demand caused by ongoing weakness in the world economy. The current downturn caps years of exceptional growth in a market that saw civil helicopter deliveries rise to more than 2,000 from a low of about 800 in 2002 in the six-year period that ended in 2008.
For the next few years, production plans for military transport aircraft are uncertain due to the impending shutdowns of some lines, startups of others and continuing manufacture of some venerable types.
The U.S. accounts for a huge share of transport production, manufacturing its own aircraft to fulfill its military needs. But the U.S. is joined in operations far from home by many other industrialized nations, some of which also manufacture transport aircraft to support their military operations.