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Farnborough breakdown: The hits and misses of FIA 2018

The 2018 Farnborough International Airshow has been a hit for the commercial aerospace industry

The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) has been underway in the UK over the past week, bringing together the world’s largest commercial aerospace and defence companies and giving them the opportunity to show their wares to prospective buyers. Here is a run down of the last weeks deals. 

The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) has been underway in the UK over the past week, bringing together the world’s largest commercial aerospace and defence companies and giving them the opportunity to show their wares to prospective buyers. Here is a run down of the last weeks deals. 

The lead up to FIA saw Boeing and Airbus make two major merger and acquisition announcements, with Boeing entering into a US$4.75 billion joint venture with Brazilian plane maker Embraer SA in response to the partnership announcement of Airbus and Bombardier, throwing the commercial aerospace market into a tail spin with a new 'super duopoly'. 

Across the defence sector, things were a little slower than usual, marking a distinct change in the atmosphere. While one of the Royal Air Force's new F-35B STOVL aircraft provided a fly-by, there was little in the way of military aircraft in action or on static display.


There was the typical static displays of tactical airlift aircraft, namely the C-130, Airbus A400M and an Antonov An-178, and a number of static display fighter aircraft, with a US Air Force F-15 and F-16, a Saab Gripen and a Panavia Tornado each split between the trade and public shows. 

Commercial aerospace was the big winner from this year's FIA, with global demand for new airliners exploding, particularly throughout Asia, providing Boeing and Airbus the opportunity to reveal the latest developments across their product lines in an attempt to woo customers. Day one saw approximately $58 billion in plane orders.

Orders were placed for 311 civilian aircraft, with more than US$2.8 billion worth of engine orders during the first day, highlighting the commercial aircraft backlog of 14,327 aircraft globally. Boeing has identified that the global demand for new commercial aircraft will be approximately 42,730 over the next 20 years valued at around US$6.3 trillion, which is expected to be worth approximately US$15 trillion by 2037. 

Boeing finished the show with new business worth US $79 billion and outline commitments for 528 jetliners, while Airbus reportedly secured US $62 billion worth of sales for 431 planes, driven largely by the growing demand in Asia for commercial airline capacity. 

Defence aerospace

In light of the impending British exit from the EU, the UK government, RAF and BAE unveiled the Combat Air Strategy for 2035 and the BAE Tempest, which serves as the basis for the Typhoon replacement program and the backbone of the UK's future air combat capabilities beyond 2035. 

Additionally, two of the RAF's key surveillance types have received an operational lift, thanks to a new agreement between the Ministry of Defence, Raytheon UK and Textron Aviation, which will improve the effectiveness of the RAF Sentinel R1 and Shadow R1 fleets.

Raytheon announced that it would deliver 44 Standard Missile 3 Block 1B interceptors under a US$466.9 million contract with the US Missile Defense Agency. The US Navy uses the missiles to provide regional defence against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles aboard its Aegis Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyers.

In a joint effort, Lockheed, Raytheon and the US State Department offered Turkey the MIM-104 Patriot missile defence system to counter the Russian offer of the S-400 system.  

Lockheed Martin celebrated the news that Japan's F-35 production facility will reach max capacity next year with an expected six aircraft. 

The Netherlands announced the procurement of Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) from US-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. 

L3 Communications won ISR sensor deals worth over US$300 million for integration on platforms across fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aerostats, land vehicles, and maritime platforms.

UMS Skeldar unveiled the new variant of their Skeldar V-200 unmanned aerial system, which is in the running for Australia’s SEA 129 Phase 5 Stage 1 Maritime Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (MTUAS) program. 

Pakistan announced that it would purchase 30 Turkish-made T129 ATAK Attack Helicopters. The deal will also include a comprehensive suite of support services including logistics, ammunition, spares, ground support equipment and training.

Saab unveiled the developmental RBS15 Mk4 anti-ship missile, which will be integrated into the Swedish Air Force's Gripen E fighters. It is expected that the RBS15 Mk4 will also be integrated into the Swedish Navy's Visby Class corvettes. 

Airbus Defense & Space announced it would launch flight tests in the first quarter of 2019 to prove the capability of its A400M tactical transport to refuel helicopters in flight. 

Commercial aerospace 

Boeing secured an US$8.8 billion deal for 75 of the company's new 737 MAX 8 jetliners, while Airbus counter-punched with an equal deal for 80 A320 NEO (New Engine Option) narrow body airliners. Other popular air frames included the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777 of both passenger and freight variants with a variety of users in Europe and Asia. 

By far the biggest announcement for Boeing was the finalisation of the US$3.9 billion Air Force One contract with the US, which will see the current fleet of modified 747-200's replaced by two new 747-8i to enter service by 2024. 

Airbus did edge out it's competitors to sign a material support contract with the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) to support the H225 helicopter fleet, which comes on top of an order from earlier in the year that saw the JCG place an order for additional H225 helicopters bringing the total procurement to 10, with five aircraft already in operation. 

Airbus also managed to secure deals for its new A350 Extra Wide Body (XWB) airliners with customers in China, Taiwan and a series of undisclosed buyers. The company also managed to seal the deal for 34 more of its Dreamliner killer, the new A330NEO, with AirAsia, with other potential bids from clients in Africa.   

Private Jet manufacturer Gulfstream's G600 made its FIA debut and was joined by the company's G500, G650ER and the super mid-size G-280. The company also hosted a 'Special Missions' exhibit showcasing the company’s customisable aircraft platforms. The exhibit highlighted the innovative design, engineering and technology present in Special Missions aircraft such as the modified US Navy Telemetry Range Support Aircraft and aeromedical evacuation platforms.


The aerospace industries of the top ten countries were worth $731 billion – 87 per cent of the global industry. The 49 per cent of the world aerospace total accounted for by the US was more than the next 25 countries combined.

The top 10 aerospace manufacturing countries in 2017 were:

  1. US at $408 billion;
  2. France at $69 billion;
  3. China at $61.2 billion;
  4. UK at $48.8 billion;
  5. Germany at $46.2 billion;
  6. Russia at $27.1 billion;
  7. Canada at $24 billion;
  8. Japan at $21 billion;
  9. Spain at $14.4 billion, and
  10. India at $11 billion.

Farnborough draws more than 1,500 exhibitors from 52 countries, with 82 of the top 100 aerospace companies participating in 2016 and $124 billion worth of orders and commitments placed during the 2016 FIA.