Photo courtesy of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
As rotorcraft re-equipment cycles end in the U.S. and much of Europe, the output of light military rotorcraft — those with a maximum gross weight less than 15,000 pounds — is expected to decline to 146 units this year from 211 last year, according to Forecast International.
While the market is likely to increase to 154 units in 2019, demand will then drop again in the following years, "reaching double-digit levels for the first time since 2006," Forecast International said.
In 2026, annual light military rotorcraft production is projected to once again begin rising, returning to triple digits by 2029.
"Driving the return to market growth in the long term of our forecast will be production ramp-ups for such new programs as the French military's Helicoptere Interarmees Leger (HIL) program, the South Korean Army's Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) effort and the U.S. Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) project," Raymond Jaworowski, Forecast International senior aerospace analyst, said in a statement.
While the Airbus H160M is to be the platform for HIL, and Korea Aerospace Industries is developing the LAH based on the Airbus H155, the U.S. Army has yet to select a contractor for FARA, which is to fill the armed scout role once occupied by the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and envisioned for the now-canceled Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche and Bell ARH-70 Arapaho programs.
"The manufacturer selected to produce the FARA platform will find itself in a position to possibly garner orders for hundreds of rotorcraft for the U.S. military, with export sales potentially adding to this total," Jaworowski said.
Forecast International projects that production for the FARA program will be worth an estimated $2.1 billion by 2032 — fully 8.8 percent of the market by value and 7.3 percent of the market by unit production. In addition, production of the FARA platform will continue far beyond 2032, according to Forecast International.
Overall, China's Avicopter will lead the light military rotorcraft market in unit production, producing 330 units over the 15-year forecast period for a market share of 20.2 percent, Forecast International said. Airbus Helicopters is next, with production of 295 units for an 18.1-percent share. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) of India is third in production of 267 units, representing a 16.4-percent share. Bell is projected to be fourth, with production of 174 units for a 10.7-percent share. Finally, KAI of South Korea will rank fifth with production of 137 rotorcraft for an 8.4-percent market share.