Fighter aircraft market 2021: second-hand fighters are shooting down new ones in first half of the year

Second hand combat aircraft market
Second-hand Rafale multirole fighters.

The fighter aircraft market saw a sharp increase in sales of used platforms in the first half of 2021, hindering business for new ones. In January, Greece bought 18 Rafale fighters (12 of which second-hand), followed a few months later by Croatia which at the end of May confirmed its intention to procure 12 Rafales from the inventory of the French Air Force.

With aerospace industries releasing enhanced variants of their platforms to meet the demands of today's air forces, the market is offering great opportunities for countries with economic downturns. Since early variants cannot always be upgraded to the latest standards, nations often sell them to buy those with more features or streamline their fleet.

This trend turns out to be a double-edged sword for fighter manufacturers, who on the one hand are benefiting from the sale of new packages/jets to their customers, but on the other are suffering in getting new users. An example is the case of the F-16 which in the last decade has enjoyed excellent sales for the used, but less so for the new. Croatia had also selected second-hand Fighting Falcons (former Israeli Air Force) before the United States prevented the deal.

Used aircraft will likely continue to take a good share of the market in the coming years, there are still many fourth generation aircraft available, such as the Eurofighter T1 or Gripen C/D, as well as many countries that cannot afford new aircraft. As with the latest tenders, the price of a second-hand Rafale will always be better than that of newly manufactured competitors, as well as being delivered in a much faster time.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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