Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology Advancement in Aerospace and Defense Industries

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Today, the United States is a leading global powerhouse of world defense and aerospace spending by a broad margin, specifically after September 11.

The country believes that technological development is important for maintaining its hold in national defense, specifically with respect to aerospace capabilities.

Exploiting New Technologies for Drivers

Drivers for the aerospace sector for harnessing novel technologies include:

  • Increased mobility
  • Increased capacity
  • Increased safety
  • Reduced noise
  • Reduced emissions

Major contractors within the commercial aerospace sector do not face considerable threats related to alternative products because an airplane is unique in terms of ability and speed to travel over water.

Conversely, the threat of alternative products exists at the component/part level in the aerospace sector. For instance, novel material technology can make the materials obsolete, especially those that were often used in the past for building engines and airplanes. Present manufacturing technologies are restricting the performance, reliability, and affordability of aerospace systems, materials, and avionics.

Nanotechnologies Enormous Potential in Aerospace and Defense

Nanotechnology shows immense promise in enhancing both performance and reliability of aerospace hardware while reducing manufacturing expenses. For instance, nanostructured materials that could be 100 times lighter than traditional materials of similar strength are feasible.

Integrating nanoscale electromechanical system components into piloted vehicles, planetary probes, and earth-orbiting satellites can possibly lower the cost of upcoming space programs. The compact robotic and sensing systems would improve exploration capabilities at considerably reduced costs.

Advances in Civil Technologies within IT, Electronics, and Communications

The developments in civil technologies, specifically in the field of communications, IT, and electronics, are specifically related to the design of military systems. However, these are challenging advances for the defense sector.

According to the UK’s Strategic Defence Review, by 2015, there will be one battlespace in which air, maritime, and land forces will be guided, targeted, and supported by a new range of systems, weapons, and platforms that integrate sophisticated communications and information technology, providing a step-change in military capability.

Nanotechnology Impact on Critical Aspects

Nanotechnology will have an impact on all major aspects of keeping a technologically superior defense capability, the main drivers of which are:

  • Military uniforms with improved features including self-healing and protection
  • Chemical and biological threat detection
  • Medical treatments and new vaccines
  • High-performance information technology and remote control
  • Reducing civilian casualties via the use of intelligent munitions

United Kingdom and World Defense Spending

Defense spending in the United Kingdom is approximately £22 billion per year (Boeing), and the UK Government has also spent an estimated £24.5 billion on defense in the year 2001/2002. It is believed that 44.6% of this figure was earmarked for buying defense equipment. The global defense market has currently stabilized, after a steep reduction in the early 1990s.

According to the most recent data available, the United Kingdom has retained its position as the second-largest global supplier of defense equipment, after the United States.

World Defense Expenditure Table

Projection of defence spending from around the world.

Figure 1. Projection of defense spending from around the world

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