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Rising aerial threat perceptions are prompting defence forces across the world to bolster their air defence capabilities with airborne electronic warfare (EW) systems. As budget constraints compel governments to defer major new procurement programs, upgrades of existing EW systems will be the bigger revenue stream till 2018. Once budget constraints ease, the fresh procurements/fleet replacements will feature new combat air platforms with modern EW systems. EW suppliers that can offer reduced hardware size, extensive threat identity database, and wider coverage are best poised to succeed.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Military Airborne Electronic Warfare (EW) Market in 14 Key Countries, finds that the US EW spending touched $1.03 billion in 2014 and estimates this to reach $1.09 billion in 2016 before declining to $950.6 million in 2019. The study assesses 14 key countries that are expected to be big spenders in the airborne EW domain. They are the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Israel, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
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While prime contractors control the uptake of EW equipment in North America, consortiums influence the procurement of EW systems in Europe. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-driven EW policies will have a huge bearing on EU forces’ decisions regarding equipment configuration and overall architecture.
“The NATO is driving EU nations to pool resources and increase their respective contributions to joint operations,” said Frost & Sullivan Defence Senior Research Analyst Arun Kumar Sampathkumar. “This will result in slow yet steady upgrade opportunities as forces make efforts to achieve the common architectures stipulated by the respective NATO doctrines.”
In the United States, the overall defence spending is levelling off but the country’s logistics and operations needs have escalated. Hence, once defence spending rises post budget cuts, these two sectors will be prioritized. This will cause EW to be ranked below basic operational needs.
Meanwhile, in Europe, there has been heightened interest in air missile defence systems due to Russia’s involvement in the conflicts in Eastern Ukraine and its military exercises along its western borders surrounding the High North/Baltic regions. The defense spending in that region will cover air defense missile systems and suitable upgrades of air defence systems, including EW devices.
“The addition of a new EW system translates to sizeable upgrade orders for the system integrators that provide the overarching EW architecture,” observed Sampathkumar. “Tier-II/III suppliers can promote their products’ eligibility for integration with the new procurement/upgrade programs by fostering close relations with the prime contractor and the EW systems integrator.”
An air defence system that has been gaining prominence in recent times is the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). However, unlike its larger, manned counterparts, these are incompatible with EW systems. System suppliers are therefore working on developing RPA-compatible versions of EW systems to make the most of the demand for RPAs.
Overall, globally, EW upgrade programs will involve more EW hardware sales than new procurement programs over the next five years. As new procurement deliveries converge from 2017, the forward-fitted EW systems will rise in profile.
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