PALO ALTO, Calif., 14 Feb. 2008. Since the emergence of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), the airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) market has prospered. The intensifying demand for timely intelligence has further boosted the ISR market over the past five years.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, "U.S. Airborne ISR Platforms Market," finds that spending for Department of Defense (DoD) airborne ISR programs will total $36.3 billion between 2008 and 2013.
The U.S. military's brand of warfare has changed radically over the last decade. Increasingly, its troops have begun to depend on information relayed by numerous manned and unmanned patrol aircraft. The threat encountered from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in recent expeditions has heightened the importance and demand for airborne ISR systems.
In particular, unmanned aircraft continue to emerge as critical assets in the ISR fleet, and DoD spending on these platforms reflects the importance accorded to them. Additionally, military services increasingly procure UASs on a yearly basis.
"From the Air Force's legacy U-2 to the Army's smallest unmanned aircraft, airborne ISR platforms are crucial to maintaining U.S. superiority in the battlefield," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Lindsay Voss. "These aircraft will also play a pivotal role in the U.S. military's network-centric operations in the future."
However, possible defense funding cutbacks will likely hamper the military's manned and unmanned airborne ISR programs. With the DoD delaying and realigning developmental airborne ISR programs, such as the aerial common sensor, U.S. military services have accelerated the upgrade and modernization efforts of legacy platforms to keep them battle-ready for at least the next 15 years.
"The Army is updating both its Guardrail and Airborne Reconnaissance Low platforms," notes Voss. "Both the Air Force and Navy are upgrading their older ISR platforms as well, which will offer opportunities for prime and subcontractors over the next five years to modernize these aircraft."
Due to military-wide budget reductions, available defense funding has decreased across numerous services and programs. This will slow down large developmental programs as well as new airborne ISR programs over the next six years.
Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have escalated the U.S. military's equipment reset and personnel costs. During this budget crunch, the DoD's gradual adoption of joint programs allows it to secure funds for large programs more easily than possible with the support of only one service.
However, despite the possibility of future funding shortages for developmental airborne ISR programs, new prospects are emerging in network centricity and systems interoperability.
"While enabling legacy technology to work in a network-centric environment is a challenge, the market for new technologies that meet the DoD's networking needs will be profitable over the next six years," observes Voss. "Subsystems for unmanned aircraft will also continue to be a dynamic market as these systems become more diversified and are integrated with the latest sensor and radar technologies."