The Firefighting Aircraft Market was valued at USD 2,210.79 million in 2020 and the market is projected to register a CAGR of 2.98% during the forecast period (2021-2026).
Wildfires or forest fires cause a great deal of devastation every year, in various parts of the world. However, only a few countries in the world are equipped with the required aerial firefighting vehicles to tackle such wildfires. Increasing summer temperatures due to global warming, unattended campfires by humans, and lightning are some of the reasons for wildfires. There has been an increase in the number of forest fire incidents, worldwide, in the last decade. Both the duration and the intensity of wildfires witnessed an increase due to various factors. This has led to a growth in the usage of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for firefighting.
In response to the growing number of wildfires, countries are procuring water-bombing aircraft because they want to respond to such wildfires quickly and effectively. Moreover, the use of rotorcraft for aerial firefighting has increased over the years. The mobility, speed, and delivery capabilities of rotorcraft make them more effective than fixed-wing aircraft, during direct dispersal of fire extinguishing agents to suppress a forest fire. Thus, their usage is now being popularized, and their procurement rates are expected to increase in the coming years. However, since the majority of the firefighting aircraft are modified versions of old aircraft, whose subsystems are generally not at their best, they are prone to malfunctioning in non-friendly environments, with hot air and flames being the foremost challenges for the equipment. Such incidents have led to accidents that have endangered lives and resulted in the loss of both life and property.
Key Market Trends
Rotorcraft Segment Accounted for the Largest Market Share in 2020
The operational benefits of using rotorcraft for firefighting missions have led to a steady increase in firefighting rotorcraft demand on a global scale. For instance, in December 2020, Leonardo delivered the first HH-139B twin-engine helicopter to the Italian Air Force. It is a customized variant of the AW139 platform and is the first of 17 HH-139Bs ordered, with deliveries expected to be completed by 2021. The HH-139Bs are envisioned to perform a range of missions, including SAR, firefighting, and Slow Mover Intercept. Similarly, in December 2019, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) placed an order for four AW139s for fire suppression, emergency medical services, and search and rescue. The first helicopter was delivered in October 2020, and the remaining three were scheduled to be delivered before the end of 2020. Moreover, several countries are converting their helicopters into firefighters with the integration of modern internal water tanks. For instance, in March 2018, Simplex Aerospace, a Portland-based designer and manufacturer of aerial application systems, unveiled its new 850-gallon internal fire attack system for the Blackhawk helicopter. The system is available for the S-70i, S-70A, UH-60A, and UH-60L helicopters. Such developments render a positive outlook for the rotorcraft segment during the forecast period.
Asia-Pacific to Experience the Highest Growth During the Forecast Period
The prevalent practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, combined with the extreme effects of El Niño and La Niña events, has intensified the hazard of forest fires in Asia-Pacific. There have been several instances of forest fires in the region. For instance, in March 2020, a forest fire in the Sichuan district of China resulted in the death of 19 people, including 18 firefighters. In September 2019, an uncontrolled forest fire raged across the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi in Indonesia that caused massive losses to life and property, estimated to be worth USD 5.2 billion. The several instances of wildfire and the extensive damage caused by it have encouraged regional fire protection authorities to expand their firefighting aircraft fleet. For instance, In June 2019, Viking Air was awarded a contract to supply six new Viking Canadair CL-515 and one upgraded Canadair CL-415EAF amphibious aircraft to Indonesia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). While four of the CL-515 twin-turboprop aircraft are to be delivered in first responder multi-mission configuration, the remaining two are optimized for aerial firefighter configuration. Similarly, in January 2020, Korea Forest Service (KFS) purchased an S-64 Air Crane helicopter from Erickson Incorporated, a renowned operator, maintainer, and utility aircraft manufacturer. With the delivery of K9 set for 2020, KFS operational aircraft would be seven S-64 Air Crane helicopters in South Korea. Such developments are envisioned to support the growth of the market in focus in Asia-Pacific during the forecast period.
The market of firefighting aircraft is highly concentrated, with only a few players in the market. Textron Inc., Leonardo S.p.A., and Airbus SE (Airbus) are the major players in the market, which together account for more than 30% of the total market share due to their strong order book and deliveries to firefighting agencies in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific and other international firefighting agencies. To increase their footprints in the market, the companies are investing in the development of new aircraft models for firefighting with capabilities to carry huge volumes of water and fire retardants. For instance, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has developed the large amphibious aircraft AG600. The aircraft was mainly developed for supporting forest firefighting and maritime rescue operations. The aircraft, in July 2020, completed its sea-based test flight. The company planned to receive the certification of the aircraft in 2021 and deliver the first aircraft to its launch customer in 2022. Similarly, Viking Aircraft developed two new firefighting aircraft models, CL-415EAF (Enhanced Aerial Firefighter) aircraft and CL-515 water bomber aircraft, in the past few years.
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