In the near future, both the commercial and the defense aviation and aerospace sectors will experience dramatic shifts, which will accelerate from now to the year 2020. This means that predictions based on linear extrapolation from the current situations are likely to be the wrong approach, said Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI's) corporate vice president for Marketing Yair Ramati.
He was speaking on 'Aerospace Market and Trend Towards 2020' at the Aero India 2009 International Seminar on 'Aerospace - Perspectives and Trends in Technologies', being held in Bangalore from 9 to 12 February.
The world is changing in a rapid pace; wars in the Balkans, in the Caucasus and elsewhere, worldwide terrorism, and the collapse of mammoth financial institutions will have significant impact on the international markets and in particular on the aerospace industries, that are sequent facing an increasing number of challenges, he said.
While the US and EU will continue to dominate the global aerospace industry, the share of countries like India and China will increase, as their share of the world GDP increases to between 6 and 8 per cent.
In the meanwhile, the global downturn will mean that procurements will be postponed with the credit squeeze, and also as fuel prices fall - giving greater longevity to technologies that would otherwise have been considered 'obsolete'.
The latest technology cannot take on terrorists, and it is appropriate technology like UAVs and UCAVs that will see the maximum growth in the run up to 2020; some of this growth will come at the expense of more traditional aircraft. He predicted that Predator-like UCAVs may even replace aircraft in certain applications.
Besides, as the technology of the kind of sensors these unmanned craft can carry improves, and low radar cross-section (RCS) versions of these UCAVs emerge.
Three major change and transformation drivers can be identified.
The first is the pure technology race, the second is the economy environment and the third is international frameworks: globalisation, shifts in superpower strength, interoperability, treaties, technology transfer and industrial cooperation.
International fighter aircraft sales will remain steady at around 150 a year, but the value will increase from $7 billion at present to $10 billion. By 2020, the Us will have 50 per cent of the market, the EU will have 20 per cent, Russia will have 20 per cent, and the rest of the world the rest. With technology levels moving up, it is only the large players that will flourish; there will be no meaningful space for small start-ups, as critical mass becomes a sin qua non for survival.
In IAI's view, he added, the platform is unimportant, and deployment of advanced systems like data networks, data fusion, AESA radars, etc, can transform supposedly outdated platforms into highly effective fighting machines. For example, AWACS systems integrated with Gulfstream-type business jets or Russian Ilyushin aircraft can be as effective as Boeing-mounted systems.
As time goes, ground-launched missile systems, given acceptable levels of accuracy, can prove to be a far more cost-effective attack system than combat aircraft, as Surface-to-Air missiles are the bestselling weapons in the entire missile spectrum, he said.