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Aerial Refueling Systems Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By System (Probe & Drogue, Flying Boom, and Autonomous), By Application (Commercial Aircraft, Helicopters, Military Aircraft, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), By Components (Pods, Refueling Probes, Hoses, Boom and Drogues), and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028

Region : Global | Format: PDF | Report ID: FBI105152



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The global aerial refueling systems market size was USD 535.8 million in 2020. The global impact of COVID-19 has been unmatched and staggering, with aerial refueling systems witnessing a negative impact on demand across the globe amid the pandemic. Based on our analysis, the global market exhibited growth of 1.12% in 2020 as compared to the average year-on-year growth during 2017-2019. The market is projected to grow from USD 545.4 million in 2021 to USD 743.8 million in 2028 at a CAGR of 4.53% in the 2021-2028 period.

An aerial refueling system or seaplane is an aircraft that can transfer aviation fuel from tanker aircraft to other military aircraft. These aircraft are commonly called tanker aircraft, which are used for a variety of military applications. The fuel transferring is performed through two methods such as probe-and-drogue and flying boom.

These aircraft consist of various refueling systems and operators that can perform aviation fuel transferring operations without any leakages. Air refueling plays a vital role in the wide range of fighter planes due to colossal time-saving in emergency operations. Most air force planes need to cover long distances without landing in unfriendly countries. In 2019, the U.S. Air Force showcased its new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker with a flying capacity of 2,10,000-pound aviation fuel at the Paris Air Show. The tanker aircraft can transfer 1,200 gallons per minute of aviation fuel.

COVID-19 Pandemic: Rising Investments in Military and Defense Sector to Aid Growth

COVID-19 pandemic has spread across 200 countries around the world and has largely disrupted the economy around the world. The defense sector remained stable in previous years because many countries focused on strengthening their military and defense capabilities amid the pandemic. Major countries such as the U.S., China, Japan, India, Germany, and France have increased their expenditures on military defense, which prevented a negative impact on the sector. The committed spending on the defense sector by various economies majorly supported the industry. The military & defense sector remained unaffected and projected to grow at a moderate pace in the next couple of years.


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Development of Lightweight and Advanced Aircraft is a Prominent Trend

Several companies are focused on enhancing tanker aircraft to serve various military planes such as bombers, fighter jets, and unmanned systems. Aerial refueling systems have remained a key focused area for development for the past few years. There are a few concerns in the area of remotely operated refueling systems from the back of tankers. Therefore, the autonomous refueling system concept is gaining substantial attention across the globe due to the excellent unmanned system tankers available.

In December 2020, the U.S.-based company Boeing tested a naval unmanned aerial tanker MQ-25A Stingray prototype by taking flight for two and half hours with an aerial refueling store (ARS) at the MidAmerica Airport in Illinois. The autonomous system will provide services to aircraft such as Boeing EA-18G Growler, Lockheed Martin F-35C aircraft, and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. The development of autonomous planes such as the next-generation unmanned system can be future-ready for various military applications. Integration of this technology is projected to fuel the aerial refueling systems market growth in the forthcoming years.


Increasing Defense Spending to Boost Market Growth

A rise in investment in military modernization programs in various countries along with the growing procurement of advanced fighter planes is projected to drive the market growth.

In May 2020, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), China’s defense budget experienced a substantial growth of 6.6%, i.e., USD 178.2 billion. The recent increase in military spending has cleared the long path of modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by 2035. The government is expected to transform PLA into a “world-class” military by 2049.

The U.S. government raised defense spending during the financial year 2020-2021. The Department of Defense (DOD) U.S. is USD 704 billion for the fiscal year 2020-2021. Asian countries such as Japan also have had a strong economic performance for the past several years. Japan announced over USD 51. Billion for the defense for the fiscal year 2021. This development is projected to fuel demand for the aircraft refueling market during the forecast period.

Surging Procurement of Next Generation Military Aircraft to Propel Growth

The increasing number of aging combat aircraft in many countries to fuel demand for new generation warfare aircraft across the globe due to outdated technology and limited warfare systems. Therefore, old aircraft carry the risk of severe damages and the pilot's risk while in combat missions. Several countries are investing heavily to modernize fleet size with the latest technology for future-ready.

In 2019, Singapore announced the purchase of the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter by replacing the fleet of F-16. In July 2020, India’s Defense Ministry signed an agreement worth USD 2.4 billion to purchase 33 Russian fighter jets, including 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30 MKI, with the up-gradation of 59 existing MiG-29 fleets. An increase in the purchase of advanced military aircraft versions by the various countries is projected to fuel demand for aerial refueling type of systems in upcoming years.


High Installation and Maintenance Cost May Hamper Growth

Military aircraft are designed uniquely by providing a caliber to face a considerable amount of external air pressure at a significant amount of speed while traveling. Air to air refueling offers a longer time for aircraft to loiter in the air space area or extended journey operations. The fighter jets have a different fueling system, allowing a slow fuel flow rate to avoid any leakages or damages. A separate refueling system is required in the tanker plane for the accurate fuel transferring in the midair and the compatible receiver end in the jets. This installation system is costly, which further enables maintenance costs for a more extended period. These factors are projected to hamper the growth of the market during the forecast period.


By Components Analysis

Pod Segment Held Highest Share in 2020 Backed by Rising Demand for Fighter Aircraft

Based on components, the market is segmented into pods, refueling probes, hoses, boom, and drogues. The pod segment held the highest shares in 2020 because the increasing demand for fighter aircraft that provides better performance during the transferring operation will drive the growth of the market. The refueling pod offers stability in the air for flying aircraft and receivers to provide adequate fuel transferring at a large amount. The refueling probe segment is estimated to show a significant growth rate during 2021-2028. The growth is attributed to the increasing demand for new generation aircraft with integrated probe systems for refueling. The growing demand is due to its features such as easy to maintain, low acquisition cost, convenience for refueling, etc.

 By System Analysis

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Autonomous Segment to Grow Rapidly Owing to High Demand for Automatic Fuel Transferring Systems

Based on the system, the market is classified into probe & drogue, flying boom, and autonomous. The flying boom segment is estimated to be the largest segment in 2020. Increasing defense expenditure and fighter aircraft procurement for the various military operations is projected to drive market growth. Several military tanker aircraft mainly prefer this system owing to high-capacity fuel transferring capability at a very shorter time. It gives several advantages in the mid to save time and energy in emergency cases in the midair for various applications. The autonomous segment will showcase the highest growth during 2021-2028 due to the increasing demand for automatic fuel transferring systems without operators, which reduces separate costs across the world.

By Application Analysis

Military Segment to Hold Maximum Share in the Market in Forthcoming Years

Based on the application, the aerial refueling system market is divided into commercial aircraft, helicopters, military aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The military segment is anticipated to be the largest segment in 2020 and continue its domination during the forecast period. The military aircraft are used for maritime monitoring, intelligence, surveillance, combat mission, precision target destroying, and other applications. There is a broad range of military aircraft deployed in the air force in various countries with a different set of operations depending on the capability of aircraft carriers such as helicopters, bombers, and transport carriers. 

The unmanned aerial vehicles segment is projected to grow at a rapid pace up to 2028. The growth is attributed to the rising demand for unmanned aerial vehicles in various operations across the globe. The increasing use of unmanned aerial systems for surveillance, intelligence, and other military operations boosts the market growth.


North America Aerial Refueling Systems Market Size, 2020 (USD Million)

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The global market is segmented based on regions into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the rest of the world. North America dominated the market in 2020. It stood at USD 274.9 million in 2020. The growth is attributed to the high defense expenditure, procurement of advanced aerial refueling systems for different military applications. Also, the strong presence of key players such as Eaton Corporation, GE Aviation, and Lockheed Martin, and others would drive the market growth across North America.

The Asia Pacific market is anticipated to witness remarkable growth during the forecast period. The growth is due to increasing investments in the military and defense sectors from China, Japan, India, and Australia. A rise in the procurement of aerial refueling systems for strengthening the military fleet due to growing border crossing, insurgencies, and terrorism will drive the regional market's growth.

Europe is anticipated to show significant growth due to the presence of key players such as Cobham, Safran, Marshall Aerospace and Defense, and others that drive the market's growth across Europe. In August 2020, Denmark's first F-35 fighter jet started assembling at the Lockheed Martin facility. Denmark will acquire all-new 27 aircraft up to 2026.

Growing terrorism in the Middle Eastern countries and increasing jets in military operations are projected to fuel demand for these systems in the region. The market growth in the rest of the world is accredited to the rising demand for tanker jets for defense application will drive the growth of the market during 2021-2028.


Key Players Focus on Developing Cost-effective Aerial Refueling Systems by Adopting Modern Technologies

Key companies in the market such as Airbus S.A.S, Cobham Plc, and GE Aviation are projected to lead the market owing to a strong product portfolio of world-class refueling systems for defense applications. These manufacturers are focused on enhancing the capabilities of the cost-effective aerial refueling systems by allowing more aircraft refueling. Other key companies are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Eaton Corporation, Safran, Israel Aerospace Industries, Marshall Aerospace & Defense Group, Parker Hannifin, and Others. These technology-providing companies are adopting modern techniques and systems to enhance the overall performance of the aircraft. The companies are majorly focusing on the introduction of advanced technologies, collaboration, acquisition, and partnership to increase their customer base across the world.


  • Airbus S.A.S (Netherlands)

  • Cobham Plc (UK)

  • GE Aviation (U.S.)

  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.)

  • Boeing (The U.S.)

  • Eaton Corporation (The U.S.)

  • Safran S.A. (France)

  • Israel Aerospace Industries (Israel)

  • Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group (The UK)

  • Parker Hannifin (The U.S.)


  • February 2021 - The Israeli ministerial committee provided clearance for the procurement of F-35 jets with munitions and KC refueling aircraft from the U.S. The deal includes the procurement of four new refueling planes for enhancing the air force fleet size.

  • January 2021 – The U.S. Air Force placed an order for twelve Boeing KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft of USD 2.1 billion worth under six production lots. Now Boeing is on contract for 79 new tanker aircraft.


An Infographic Representation of Aerial Refueling Systems Market

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The market research report provides a detailed analysis of the market. It focuses on key aspects such as, key players, system type, applications, and components in an aircraft. Moreover, the research report offers insights into the aerial refueling systems market trends, application of this system in combat aircraft, the technology of boom refueling, cost-effective technology advancement, market dynamics, market segmentation, competitive landscape, market competition, product pricing, market status, and highlights key industry developments. In addition to the factors mentioned above, it encompasses several direct and indirect factors that have contributed to the global market's sizing over recent years.

Report Scope & Segmentation



Study Period


Base Year


Forecast Period


Historical Period



  Value (USD Million)


   System; Application; Components and Geography

By System

  • Probe & Drogue

  • Flying Boom

  • Autonomous.

By Application


  • Commercial Aircraft

  • Helicopters

  • Military Aircraft

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)


By Components

  • Pods

  • Refueling Probes

  • Hoses

  • Boom

  • Drogues

By Geography


  • North America (By System; Application; Components, and Country)

    • The U.S. (By System)

    • Canada (By System)

  • Europe (By System; Application; Components, and Country)

    • The U.K. (By System)

    • Germany (By System)

    • France (By System)

    • Russia (By System)

    • Rest of Europe (By System)

  • Asia-Pacific (By System; Application; Component, and Country)

    • China (By System)

    • India (By System)

    • Japan (By System)

    • Australia (By System)

    • Rest of Asia-Pacific (By System)

  • Rest of the World (By System; Application; Components, and Sub-Region)

    • The Middle East & Africa (By System)

    • Latin America (By System )

Frequently Asked Questions

Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was USD 535.8 million in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 743.8 million by 2028.

Registering a CAGR of 4.53%, the market will exhibit steady growth in the forecast period (2021-2028).

The flying boom segment is expected to lead this market during the forecast period owing to the increasing demand for lightweight and small seaplanes.

Airbus, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin are the leading players in the global market.

North America dominated the market in terms of share in 2020.

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Aerial Refueling Systems Market Size, Share and Global Industry Trend Forecast till 2026
  • May, 2021
  • 2020
  • 2017-2019
  • 200


  • 4850

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