Special Mission Aircraft Market Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecast 2030

The special mission aircraft market was valued at about USD 10.75 billion in 2020, and it is projected to reach approximately USD 16.56 billion in 2030, with a CAGR of about 4.6% during the forecast period (2021-2030).

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the temporary ceasing of aircraft manufacturing and plans of aircraft OEMs to reduce aircraft production rates led to an overall decrease in special mission aircraft deliveries in 2020. However, according to Bombardier, the demand for medevac configured special mission aircraft increased in 2020.

The escalating geopolitical tensions and cross-border issues across the world are driving the rapid increase in military spending by major and emerging economies. Special mission aircraft act as low-cost multi-role substitutes that support a wide range of missions like maritime patrol, electronic warfare, search and rescue, and medevac, among others. This is expected to accelerate the demand for special mission aircraft during the forecast period.

Key Market Trends

The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Segment Accounted for the Highest Share in 2020

The intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) segment currently dominates the market, and it is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period. The segment includes special mission aircraft used for ISR missions and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) applications. The demand growth of the segment is majorly due to the increased demand for the acquisition of surveillance aircraft due to tensions at land and sea borders for various countries as well as other factors like drug trafficking and high-seas piracy. For instance, the United Arab Emirates has been expanding its fleet of GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft for reconnaissance missions. The country initially placed an order for two aircraft to Saab in 2015, followed by an order for one in 2017 and a follow-on order for two more aircraft in December 2020. The country received the first two aircraft in 2020, and the third one was delivered in February 2021. Such fleet modernization plans of the countries are anticipated to propel the growth of the segment during the forecast period.

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The Asia-Pacific Region is Expected to Witness the Highest Growth During the Forecast Period

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow rapidly during the forecast period due to the border tensions and geopolitical issues in the region. With the increasing military spending, countries such as China, India, and Japan are undertaking aircraft fleet modernization programs to enhance their aerial capabilities (including combat readiness and situational awareness). For instance, in June 2019, India’s Ministry of Defense approved the procurement of 10 more Boeing P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft for the Indian Navy. The contract is estimated to be worth about USD 3 billion. These aircraft will be directly bought from Boeing, while the P-8I weaponry, radar, and related equipment will be procured via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. It is anticipated that these new aircraft deliveries may begin by the end of 2023. In addition to this, India also announced its plans to locally manufacture special mission aircraft. In this regard, in December 2020, the country announced its plan to manufacture and deploy six new airborne early warning and control aircraft developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on aircraft from Air India to further enhance the surveillance capabilities of the Indian Air Force. Such planned procurements during the forecast period are expected to drive the growth of the market.

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