Tip: If you sell military aircraft, go find a new job

If you make military aircraft for a US customer for a living, you’re in for a rough decade.

Military spending on new aircraft will decline from $55 billion in FY 2008 to $48 billion in FY 2018 (using constant dollars).

To put that in perspective, military spending has doubled during the previous decade. So if you think the big defense contractors are whiny now, well …

As you can probably tell, I just got my hands on the military aircraft forecast presented at last week’s GEIA 2007 Vision Conference. GEIA’s panel of industry experts releases the annual forecast every year. (Yes, I am aware that many industry insiders don’t exactly live by GEIA’s predictions, but this blog takes what it can get!)

Here’s a list of the other big surprises in the GEIA forecast:

1. On a chart of “near-term opportunities”, this line is at the bottom: “F-22A Extension (20 a/c)”. Apparently at least one panel of industry experts is already counting on the USAF to seek new funds in the FY 09 budget to extend the F-22 production line.

2. Another near-term opportunity is the $1 billion “Common Vertical Lift Support Platform”, which will be the next big rotorcraft industry competition after CSAR-X is finally (fingers-crossed) awarded in 2008. That will shortly be followed by the $2 billion Joint Heavy Lift requirement (think: A400M-sized helicopter).

3. Still another line predicts a near-term opportunity for a C-17 extension of between 10-30 aircraft worth between $2 billion to $6 billion. Sharpen your knives, Boeing.

4. “B-52 re-engining”, that Holy Grail of the bomber community, is listed optimistically as a mid-term opportunity.

5. A requirement for a “future jet trainer” may emerge around 2015. First time I’ve heard about this one.

6. F-22 extension and C-17 extension re-appear as mid-term opportunities, too, meaning industry’s forecasters are placing at least even bets on these two programs surviving for several years after the currently scheduled demise. Somewhere, Barry McCaffrey is smiling (see next post).

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