High defense budgets of several governments world over are projected to fuel the global defense market during the forecast period (2016 to 2024). Most countries nowadays are investing robustly in defense technologies. Countries are able to set aside huge funds for the same because of favorable economic progress. The yearly defense budget of the leading fifty economies has surpassed USD 1.6 trillion. This is greater than the GDP (gross domestic product) of the eleven biggest economies of the world.
Despite this industry’s high rate of growth, the ‘demilitarization’ principle may have an adverse impact in the years to come. When countries voluntarily reduce the use of weapons and arms & military vehicles, it is known as demilitarization. The main rationale of such a policy is greater global peace. While there are countries that are technologically way ahead, there are those that lag far behind. This leads to a certain dilemma whether a particular technology needs to be developed domestically or be imported. Asian countries especially, are major importers of defense equipment. However, with most of these countries investing greatly in the R&D of defense equipment, the trend may undergo a noteworthy change during the forecast period.
Due to demilitarization, leading global economies, such as Europe and North America are gradually reducing their military expenditures. Thus, their reliance on manufacturers of defense equipment can plunge to a marked extent in the forthcoming years. Asia is proving to be a potential market for a number of manufacturers. This owes to high expenditure on defense equipment by Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and India. Defense expenditure by low income nations of Africa and the Middle East is mainly directed towards the protection of their economic progress. Saudi Arabia, a chief country of the Middle East has a military budget that ranks among the leading ten in the world.
The worldwide Defense Market is segmented on the basis of product type and regions. As per products, the industry is segmented into missile systems, naval systems, unmanned systems, sensors & radars, and ground vehicles. The ground vehicles segment witnesses highest demand in the overall market. Demand for unmanned vehicles can rise considerably over the next couple of years because these involve minimal human intervention. These vehicles are used in areas which are impossible or dangerous for humans to venture into. Development of unmanned systems equipped with intelligent systems could propel this segment during the forecast period.
High expenditure on missile systems by South Korea, India, and China propels the Asia Pacific market. In terms of spending, China ranks number one, followed closely by India in the second position. Missile systems include anti-tank, air-to-surface, surface-to-surface, anti-ship, and air-to-air missiles. A number of countries are upgrading their radar technologies in order to tackle geopolitical instabilities and external aggression. Demand for radar systems will continue to rise in all platforms, namely ground-based, space-based, naval-based, and airborne-based. Popularity of military surveillance in porous borders may further contribute to demand for radars & sensors.
Well known companies operating in the global defense market are Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, BAE Systems, United Technologies (UTX), and Boeing. Lockheed Martin, an American defense, aerospace, and advanced technologies company launched its very first modernized TACMS (Tactile Missile System) for the U.S. army in September 2016. This sophisticated missile is equipped with upgraded guidance electronics & additional capacities for target combat areas without leaving behind any unexploded ordnance. This TACMS platform offers flexibility for the quick integration of new capabilities and novel payloads as needed by a war fighter.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a U.S. based company dealing with defense & aerospace technologies. Under a 2013 EMD (engineering, manufacturing, & development) contract award, the company in 2016 developed and tested a number of subsystem upgrades vital to install an ‘aerial refueling’ feature. This feature has been installed in the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a carrier-capable tactical AEW (airborne early warning) aircraft. The Grumman Aircraft Company had manufactured this aircraft in the early 1960s for the U.S. Navy. Over the years the performance of this aircraft has been enhanced with the E-2B and the E-2C versions. There were changes made in radio communication capabilities and the radar.
The aerial refueling capacity will enable this aircraft to have greater on-station times at higher ranges, thus increasing the mission time for better support to the warfighters.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter falls under the category of the all-weather, single-engine, and single-seat stealth multirole fighter aircrafts. This combat aircraft is used in air defense missions and in ground attacks. The U.S. Department of Defense has suggested a few fixes that could be made in the aircraft’s landing gear (naval version). If this proves to be unsuccessful, the government department expects a complete overhaul of the F-35s landing gear. This however, may delay the delivery of this expensive aircraft.
As per earlier tests, the aircraft faced snags during takeoffs. A strong jarring motion made by the fighter plane makes the oxygen mask and the HMD (head mounted display) push up & down hitting the pilot’s jaw. This in turn leads to unreadable HMDs after and during the launches; or at least till the time the pilot readjusts his helmet. An HMD for the F-35 costs somewhere around USD 400,0000. It is equipped with an LCD that overlays sensor & aircraft data onto the field of view of the pilot. A number of F-35 supporters describe it as a pilot’s ‘workspace’; unlike a conventional pilot helmet.
Such an HMD increases the risk of neck damage in pilots weighing below 136 pounds. This is because the helmet weighs nearly 5.1 pounds. Efforts are underway to decrease its weight to either 4.8 pounds or preferably lesser than that. The issue facing pilots during takeoffs is quite serious; to the extent that pilots have reported ‘moderate pain’ in almost 75 instances during 105 catapult shots. A few even reported ‘severe’ pain. The ‘Red Team’, a group within the Department of Defense challenges the current assumptions with newer ideas. This team has recommended that a series of actions be taken with short to long-term timelines.
Research Support Specialist, USA