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The Tanker Aircraft Market is projected to grow with a CAGR of more than 2% during the forecast period.

  • The increasing military expenditure of developing economies is driving the modernization plans of various countries to replace the old tanker aircraft fleet. This is anticipated to propel the growth of tanker aircraft market during the forecast period.
  • The innovations in existing tanker aircraft along with introduction of new tanker aircraft are anticipated to attract new customers for the aircraft OEMs.
  • The market of tanker aircraft is highly consolidated with very few players in the market.



Key Market Trends


Innovations in Aerial Refueling Aircraft

New variants of tanker aircraft are being developed by the companies. One of the areas of investment is the development of unmanned tanker aircraft. Boeing is currently developing the MQ-25 tanker drone. The company was awarded a contract of worth USD 805 million to design, develop, test, and deliver four MQ-25 drones in August 2018 that can provide refueling services for the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, and EA-18G Growler aircraft. The company was awarded a six-year development contract and plans the initial operational capability of the aircraft by 2024. The US DoD plans to acquire about 72 aircraft with an investment of USD 13 billion in the coming years. In September 2019, the company successfully completed the first flight of the aircraft. Such investments of the armed forces into the development of advanced tanker aircraft in partnership with the aircraft OEMs is anticipated to propel the growth of tanker aircraft market in the future.

North America Held the Highest Market Share in 2019

North America is currently dominating the market and is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period. This is mainly due to the current plan of the US Air Force to replace approximately 30% of its aging fleet of KC-135 aerial refueling tankers. Currently, there are about 396 KC-135 aircraft in service. Under this plan, in 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) awarded the Boeing Company, a contract of worth about USD 35 billion to build and deliver 179 new KC-46A aerial refueling tankers. These aircraft are expected to be delivered during the period of 2019 – 2028. As of early March 2020, about 31 KC-46As have been delivered to the US Air Force. Further to capture the growing opportunities of aerial refueling in the US defense industry, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Airbus signed a Memorandum of Agreement in December 2018. Such robust procurement plans of the US armed forces are anticipated to propel the growth of the market during the forecast period.

Competitive Landscape


The tanker aircraft market is consolidated with few tanker aircraft manufacturing companies. Some of the prominent players in the tanker aircraft market are BAE Systems plc, The Boeing Company, Airbus SE, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and United Aircraft Corporation. The introduction of new aircraft models, as well as current investments in the development of unmanned air-to-air refueling technologies, are anticipated to help the companies increase their share in the market. In September 2019, United Aircraft Corporation unveiled a new Ilyushin Il-78M-90A tanker based on Il-76MD-90A heavy airlifter at the MAKS 2019. Also, the partnership of the tanker aircraft OEMs to support the requirement of various armed forces is anticipated to increases its market share globally.

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