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Military aircraft manufacturing - statistics & facts

The first successful military aircraft was built in the early 19th century by American aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. With a maximum speed of 42 miles per hour, the manned flyer was significantly different to the jets of today that are capable of reaching maximum speeds of 1,500 miles per hour or more and require no onboard crew. After the invention of the first aircraft, military use of aerospace technologies became attractive for many nations across the globe since the beginning of the 20th century. The genuine interest of army triggered the rapid development of aerospace and aircraft technologies explicitly for military use. Over many centuries, this interest only grew larger as the research and development practices introduced cutting-edge aerospace technologies. Global military spending between 2001 and 2019 increased by roughly 70 percent, reaching over 1.9 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. Consequently, the size of the military aircraft and aerospace manufacturing market increased steadily until 2019. Though, the same market experienced a proportional decline due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

Cross-country analysis of the military aerospace industry

Conflicting interests between countries induce the development of more sophisticated aerospace technologies. For instance, unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called UAVs or drones, have become an indispensable weapon and are in great demand in many parts of the world. Yet, the manufacturing of military aerospace equipment or vehicle requires a consummate infrastructure of know-how, highly-skilled labor force, and intensive investment allocation. These requirements can not be met by all countries. In 2019, U.S., France and Germany were the leading aerospace exporters in terms of sales value. During that period, the U.S. and Russia were the leading countries with the largest share of the global active military aircraft fleet. As the economic capacities of countries slowly shift towards Asia, the region becomes stronger also in terms of military power. As of 2019, U.S., China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia were the leading five countries with the highest military expenditure. On a regional distribution, Asia-Pacific and North America held the largest global military aircraft fleet as of 2019.

Fusing technology for armament purposes

Aircraft manufacturing is one of the heavily regulated industries because of the nature of the activities involved that makes safety for all parties a high standard. High regulations imply many necessary but convoluted standards to meet. Although this process slows down the technological progress in military equipment, it ensures reliable manufacturing of equipment to implement intended commands. Over the recent decade, the investment in military robotics, such as UAVs, grew continuously. This is expected to progress even further since military robots fulfil traditional tasks with no casualty.
Boeing, Airbus, Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin were the main aerospace and defense manufacturers worldwide in 2020. When we zoom into the details of military aircraft fleet, F-16 and Su-27/30 are the most deployed combat aircraft globally. F-16 aircraft are being produced by General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and BAE Systems. On the other hand, Su-27/30 is being produced by Sukhoi, a Russian company with a history dating back to the Soviet Union. All of these firms and conglomerates invest profoundly to create new patents and innovations to sustain the market competitiveness. Yet, the R&D investment of Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin companies fluctuated around the same values throughout the recent decade, indicating a non-increasing or steady level of investment allocation into corporate growth.

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Military aircraft manufacturing worldwide

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