Boom time for combat aircraft

The Teal Group announced this week that it expects a total of 2,973 combat aircraft worth $142.4 billion to be built worldwide between 2004 and 2013.

A total of 2,973 combat aircraft valued at $142.4 billion will be built worldwide between 2004 and 2013, predicts Teal Group in its latest world fighter/attack production forecast released this week during Asian Aerospace 2004.

The new Teal forecast covers all combat aircraft over 20,000 lbs maximum take-off weight, which includes all supersonic planes plus the AV-8B Harrier.

According to the report, the market is recovering after the slump in 2002, when only 159 planes worth $6.7 billion were delivered.

Deliveries in 2003 came to 246 planes worth $10.7 billion. This rise is continuing through this year, with an anticipated 290 planes worth $12.8 billion, and will reach its peak in 2011, with 346 planes worth $16.8 billion. The next decade will see 45% growth over the 1994-2003 period, which saw deliveries of 2,620 planes worth $98 billion.

‘This market growth is fuelled by high US procurement, plus the belated arrival of key European programs and first deliveries of several important export contracts,’ said Richard Aboulafia, lead analyst for Teal Group’s World Military & Civil Aircraft Briefing.

The report describes the most important questions that will determine the fighter market’s direction for the coming years. The biggest questions are said to revolve around Lockheed Martin’s F-35 JSF.

Funding, weight, and other performance issues will determine whether this new program has ‘a transformational effect on the market.’ So far, it has already had a profound impact, ‘depriving European manufacturers of several short-term opportunities, and delaying other key buys until the F-35 arrives.’

Other big questions concern UCAVs, Bombers, and Boeing. The F/A-18E/F has one very strong decade ahead, the report notes, and the F-15 ‘will likely get one last, and truly final hurrah.’ But by 2012, it is likely that Boeing will exit the fighter market, focusing instead on net-centric defence work.

Beyond the report’s forecast period, the future could belong to the US. ‘Assuming F-35 program execution and funding go close to plan, European industry may exit this industry after the current programs wind down,’ said Aboulafia. ‘Even France might cease to have any kind of inhabited fighter prime by the end of the next decade. The window of opportunity to avoid this fate is closing.’