US spending on airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) programmes between 2008 and 2013 is expected to total US$36.3bn, although defence budget cuts may limit growth in the sector, according to recent industry analysis.
In its US Airborne ISR Platforms Market report, industry analyst Frost & Sullivan says airborne ISRs are "crucial to maintaining US superiority in the battlefield" and Department of Defence (DoD) spending reflects their importance.
Yet due to military-wide budget cuts, defence spending will decrease across a number of programmes, which will slow down development of ISRs, Frost & Sullivan says.
With the DoD delaying and realigning developmental airborne ISR programmes, US military services have accelerated the upgrade and modernisation efforts of legacy platforms to keep them operational for the next 15 years.
"The army is updating both its Guardrail and Airborne Reconnaissance Low platforms," Frost & Sullivan research analyst Lindsay Voss says.
"Both the Air Force and Navy are upgrading their older ISR platforms as well, which will offer opportunities for prime and subcontractors over the next five years to modernise these aircraft."
"While enabling legacy technology to work in a network-centric environment is a challenge, the market for new technologies that meet the DoD's networking needs will be profitable over the net six years," Voss says.
By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh