The weapons carriage and release systems market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 3% during the forecast period.
- The emergence of new technologies and platforms has transformed the warfare strategies of nations such as the US, Russia, and China. These countries have diverted their efforts towards the development of sophisticated and powerful weapons that can severely impact enemy strongholds and help attain a tactical advantage in case of an armed standoff. While weapon carriages are being redesigned for specific weaponry, release systems are being used extensively in current warfare scenarios due to their visual superiority and capability of performing pre-emptive strikes on specific locations.
- However, the market may be deterred by the design challenges faced by system integrators to incorporate advanced features in their product portfolio without compromising on the payload capacity, aerodynamic profile, and range of a delivery platform. Designers are also required to ensure the availability of sophisticated integrated features, cross-compatibility with the different types of advanced weapon systems from several weapon manufacturers to develop a fully operational weapon carriage and release system, hence rendering a complex outlook to the overall system design.
Key Market Trends
Aircraft Platform to Dominate the Market
As of 2019, several fleet modernization programs are underway globally. However, the aircraft fleet expansion and modernization programs contributed to a majority share of such undertaken initiatives due to their high induction rate and relatively higher pricing justified by their inherent sophisticated flight characteristics. The demand for weapon carriage and release systems is directly proportional to the rate of procurement of new combat aerial assets, and the modernization of existing ones to increase their lethality. On this note, the Indian Ministry of Defence plans to acquire around 200 aircraft to cope with the depleting inventories of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Besides, with new missiles being compatible with several aircraft programs, the weapons carriage and release systems are required to be designed accordingly. For instance, in September 2019, Boeing was awarded a USD 11.4 million contract for initiating Phase 1 design maturity, analysis and test planning for production of the AGM-84 SLAM-ER, a precision-guided, air-launched cruise missile. The AGM-84 SLAM-ER can be launched from several aircraft, including the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 Super Hornet, P-3C Orion, and F-15E Strike Eagle. Such design features drive the growth prospects of the aircraft platform of the market in focus during the forecast period.
North America Dominates the Market in 2019
North America is estimated to account for the largest share of the weapons carriage and release systems market in 2019. The US has one of the most advanced fleets of aerial combat platforms at its disposal and is currently focusing on upgrading its existing fleets. Moreover, the country is a key exporter and consumer of such equipment globally as it is home to some of the leading suppliers and integrators of weapons carriage and release systems. Between 2014 and 2018, the US enhanced its share of total arms exports to account for 36% of the global arms sales. With potential adversaries such as Israel, Russia, and China fielding an increasingly diverse, expansive, and modern range of regional offensive missile systems that can threaten the aerial assets of the US forces, its allies, and partners, the US-based defense contractors are actively expanding and modernizing the capabilities of their aerial assets, thereby driving the demand for weapons carriage and release systems. The US indigenously developed the F-22, but due to certain limitations with designing a naval variant, the F-35 program was initiated. The biggest physical difference in the capabilities between the F-22 and the F-35 are their weapon bays. The weapon bay on the F-35 is deeper and narrower than that of the F-22, to carry heavier bombs, meant for air-to-ground combat. As of October 2019, under the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, the US Department of Defense (DoD) was planning to acquire more than 2,400 new generation F-35s. Of the total acquisition, more than 1,700 aircraft shall be F-35A. Moreover, the F-35A is expected to replace the aging fleets of F-16 and the F-15 fighter aircraft. Similar potential procurement initiatives are anticipated to bolster the aircraft platform of the market in focus during the forecast period.
The prominent players in the weapons carriage and release systems market are Cobham PLC, Raytheon Technologies Corporation, L3Harris Technologies, Inc., Moog Inc., and ALKAN. Vendors are implementing marginal design changes to their offerings to accommodate newer variants of integrated weapons payload. Long-term collaborations are preferred in the market, hence the threat of entry of a new market player is minimal. In August 2017, Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) awarded a GBP 7 million contract to Cobham plc to provide weapons carriage and release equipment for the future KF-X next-generation indigenous multirole fighter aircraft. Hence, it is evident that strategic collaborations between manufacturers are on the rise to develop sophisticated systems that conform to the design and performance specifications of the end-user defense forces. This is expected to benefit industry stakeholders during the forecast period.
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