DH - Defence Helicopter

EO/IR special report: Promising outlook for Asia military helo market

13th February 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in London


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By virtue of spending estimates between now and 2027 the military EO/IR Asia-Pacific market is forecast to become the second biggest globally – behind North America. The region is also set to become the highest growing market during the same period due to its cumulative spending of $38.9 billion. 

OEM estimations strongly suggest that considerable rotorcraft business opportunities remain within the area too.  Airbus, for example, has previously told Shephard that there are approximately 880 of its military helicopters serving in Southeast Asia alone.

Growing defence budgets for countries such as India and China are also likely to lead to investment in rotorcraft procurement with sophisticated EO/IR systems. Smaller nations are showing their willingness to make prudent decisions when it comes to modernisation programmes too – which will naturally lead to advanced EO/IR technologies being sought after.

The Republic of Singapore Navy displayed one of its two newest Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopters at the Singapore Airshow last week. These new ‘Block 2’ aircraft are complete with updated avionics software and a tactical coordination officer can also man his own controls for the nose-mounted EO/IR sensor.

Similarly, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) fleet of AH-64D Apaches are currently undergoing a series of modifications that includes an integrated electronic warfare system.

Additionally, the Royal Thai Army will order four extra UH-60M Black Hawks having received Congressional approval for the purchase in 2017. Traditionally, the aircraft is fitted with nose-mounted FLIR sensors for extra visibility during search and rescue operations.

Recent developments also indicate that H225Ms are proving popular in the region with the RSAF replacing two AS332/532 Super Puma squadrons with 16 of the aircraft. H145Ms are also used by the Royal Thai Navy. The organisation was the first export customer of the aircraft.

The Philippine Department of National Defense is also on record as publicising the need for the Philippine Air Force to acquire 24 light attack helicopters for counterinsurgency operations. EO/IR specialists will of course recognise this as one opportunity to keep a close eye on. 

Having finalised a $115 million deal in 2016, the Philippine Navy will acquire two AW159 Wildcats with highly specialised mission equipment including radar and FLIR capabilities.  

Meanwhile, news from the Singapore Airshow that Leonardo is to expand its Asia-Pacific operations is further evidence that OEMs are looking to strengthen their business within the region and support growing demand.  

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