Aerospace and defense analyst Wayne Plucker provides his forecast for the military avionics community.
What do 2013 and the future hold for military aviation?
The military marketplace has been good for the last number of years. The bottom isn't going to fall out with cuts in defense spending, but it's going to take a hit. We're not going to build as many new aircraft. As far as production goes, virtually everyone worldwide with the notable exception of the Chinese has significantly cut production numbers overall.
We look at the [Boeing] P-8 as a potential new start, but that may be one of the cuts, to be honest.
We're still continuing to fly legacy airplanes that need tweaks and advances. We've put in a lot of glass cockpits so those don't need to be refreshed immediately, but there's enough weapon systems tweaks, etc., to keep it a good market, albeit not as great as it has been.
Do you predict changes related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)?
In the U.S., we're wrapping up most of the purchases of unmanned airframes. Now, the trick is to swap out sensor suites and avionics. There are concerns about the security of data links; that is certainly a key avionics feature and will be the strength of the UAV market in the U.S.
Overseas, everybody and his proverbial dog want to get into the UAV market. Aside from Israel, there aren't a lot of folks with honest traction; but, there are enough programs out there that need avionics input to include sensor suites and communications packages.
It's going to be a decent market, probably not in Europe given budgetary constraints and economic issues, but practically every country in the world wants to buy one or two. If you add them all up, it comes out to a notable market.
Related to law-enforcement UAVs, the dilemma is that the FAA has limited them to 700 feet in elevation. That is probably going to change; the FAA is getting leveraged really hard by Congress and other folks to relax those rules.
Once ADS-B, both In and Out, is fully implemented, there's a good chance first-responder UAVs will supplant helicopters. At this point in time, they are effectively limited; the only place in the U.S. where UAVs are allowed to have significantly more elevation is along the southern border.
What does the future hold relative to military helicopters?
In the U.S., we're refitting and remanufacturing military helicopters, so there's an avionics drive. Europe has a number of programs alive and well, but they are facing budgetary constraints. A lot of other places, the Middle East and to a somewhat lesser degree Asia Pacific, are interested in military helicopters.
The downside is that most of those avionics would be ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] restricted. While the U.S. might get some avionics on it, Sagem and Thales would likely be much bigger winners than Rockwell and Honeywell, for example.
NAME: Wayne Plucker
TITLE: Senior Industry Analyst, Aerospace and Defense Group
CO.: Frost & Sullivan
ROLE: Market engineering and consulting in areas such as defense aerospace, C4ISR, simulation and training