Military avionics spending to increase, become more specialized through 2015

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

Programmed U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spending shows a planned 4.7 percent increase in overall military avionics spending through 2015, yet significant shifts in spending patterns—including more selective and specialized spending—are expected, reveals the U.S. Military Avionics Market Assessment from Frost & Sullivan analysts. New F-35 and remanufactured helicopter installations and a move toward more general-purpose aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) requiring modular, integrated avionics, and greater information flow are helping drive greater focus and spending on modern military avionics.

"Traditional avionics are making way for interconnected, integrated systems that provide pilots with greater situational awareness, giving them a fully integrated view of the battlefield," says Wayne Plucker, Frost & Sullivan research analyst. "As part of this data-rich environment, UAVs will be providing more tactical information to both ground forces and airborne assets."

The 2011 DOD budget, including the overseas contingency operations (OCO) segment, provides significant retrofit funding; however, the 2012 budget is expected to reduce OCO funds, which will, in turn, lower war-related retrofit spending. Spending on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for avionics will continue to be strong, but the number of ISR airframes is declining, reveals an analyst.

"The DoD has been consistently spending modification dollars to update legacy aircraft for compliance with global air traffic management (GATM) requirements," observes Plucker. "There will also be considerable and continuous spending on communications and data capabilities, which allow for better coordination among assets."

Further, identification systems, which are crucial to the new air traffic systems, and operational necessities will require further purchases of Mode S and Mode 5 transponders. One of the high-volume areas in military avionics over the next several years is likely to be datalink units and equipment that accommodates datalinkage. Spending on avionics research, development, test & evaluation (RDT&E) is likely to suffer on account of the DOD's preference for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions.

"DoD increasingly searches out COTS-based solutions using mature, proven technology to meet the needs of end users, thus reducing the need for avionics RDT&E," notes Plucker. "Commercially mature equipment that can be configured for military-approved data configurations are in demand and many of the current military modification requests center around COTS technology."

The integrated architecture of fifth-generation fighters is expected to become the norm for military avionics. Manufacturers need to make plug-and-play-compatible components as a standard offering to acquire a bigger share of DOD revenues.

The Frost & Sullivan U.S. Military Avionics Market Assessment report is part of the Defense Growth Partnership Services program, which includes research in commercial and military aviation, homeland security, and C4ISR.

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