Aerospace Industry, complex of manufacturing firms that produce vehicles for flight—from balloons, gliders, and airplanes to jumbo jets, guided missiles, and the space shuttle. The industry also encompasses producers of everything from seat belts to jet engines and missile guidance systems. The term aerospace is a contraction of the words aeronautics (the science of flight within Earth’s atmosphere) and space flight. It came into use during the 1950s when many companies that had previously specialized in aeronautical products began to manufacture equipment for space flight.
The aerospace industry traces its origins to the Wright brothers’ historic first flights in a heavier-than-air-machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. Until World War I (1914-1918), airplane construction largely remained in the hands of industry pioneers, who built each wood-framed plane by hand. Wartime military needs drove improvement in aircraft design. By the 1930s all-metal planes featuring retractable landing gear and high-performance engines were commonly used to deliver airmail and carry civilian passengers in Europe and the United States. During World War II (1939-1945) the industry made further strides with the introduction of massive production facilities that turned out tens of thousands of airplanes. World War II research and development resulted in radar, electronic controls, jet aircraft with gas-powered turbine engines, and combat rockets.
Postwar tension between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States drove aerospace technologies to new highs as the two countries raced to establish a presence in space. By the start of the Apollo Program in 1961, development and construction of space flight vehicles and supporting systems occupied a major portion of the American and Soviet aerospace industries. At the close of the 20th century, aerospace firms around the world produced rockets and artificial satellites. Originally developed for national space exploration and military purposes, these spacecraft found peacetime uses in telecommunications, navigation, and meteorology.
More than 40 countries have industries engaged in some form of aerospace production. The largest, the American aerospace industry, employs approximately 900,000 people. American manufacturer The Boeing Company leads the world in production of commercial airplanes and military aircraft. Other major U.S. aerospace manufacturers include the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world’s largest producer of military aircraft and equipment, and the Raytheon Company, a global leader in air traffic control systems and a major supplier of aircraft, weapons systems, and electronic equipment to the U.S. government.
The European aerospace industry employs about 420,000 people, with workers from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany accounting for more than two-thirds of these employees. Airbus, headquartered in Toulouse, France, is the world’s second largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft. European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) owns 80 percent of Airbus, and Britain’s BAE Systems PLC (formerly British Aerospace) owns the other 20 percent.
Canada ranks among the top six aerospace producers in the world. The Canadian industry employs 59,000 people and is a global leader in production of commercial helicopters and business aircraft. Canadian aerospace manufacturer Bombardier ranks third in the production of nonmilitary aircraft and leads the world in the production of business jets and regional jet airliners.
Products of the aerospace industry fall into four general categories. The largest product category, aircraft, encompasses aircraft produced for military purposes, passenger and cargo transport, and general aviation (business jets, recreational airplanes, traffic helicopters, and all other aircraft). This category also includes aircraft engines. The wide variety of missiles produced for military use makes up another product category. Space vehicles, such as the space shuttle and artificial satellites, and rockets to launch them into space, comprise their own category. The final category is made up of the thousands of different pieces of equipment and equipment systems—both those on board flight vehicles and those on the ground—that make flying a relatively safe and comfortable endeavor.
Aircraft and Jet Engines
Sales of aircraft, including their engines and parts, total more than the sales of all other aerospace products combined. The production of military aircraft and accessories has traditionally dominated the field of aircraft production. In the late 20th century, however, the demand for commercial jets increased around the world while global defense spending declined.
Aerospace firms produce a broad variety of military aircraft, including fighter jets, bombers, attack aircraft, troop transports, and helicopters. Each type of craft is designed for a specific purpose. Fighter jets engage enemy aircraft, attack targets on or below the Earth’s surface, and perform reconnaissance missions. Bombers specialize in striking at distant surface targets. Attack aircraft carry lighter bombs than bombers and hit surface targets at closer range. Helicopters are used in rescue work, to transport troops and supplies, and less frequently, on attack missions. The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Northrop Grumman Corporation are among the largest builders of military aircraft in the world.
Aerospace products in the commercial aircraft category include jet airplanes used by commercial airlines. Jet airliners generally fall under one of two classifications, depending on the number of aisles in the main passenger cabin. In narrow-body jets, a single aisle divides the cabin into two banks of seats. In wide-body jets, twin aisles separate the cabin into three banks of seats. The first of the wide-body jets, the Boeing 747, entered service in 1970. This massive jetliner is capable of transporting more than 400 passengers. Today, a variety of wide-body jets are produced by Boeing and Airbus. Airbus has launched production of a "superjumbo" jet, the A380, with seating for 555 passengers on two decks. It is scheduled to begin service in 2006.
Narrow-body jets seat fewer passengers. Boeing and Airbus build large narrow-body jets that carry between 100 and 200 passengers. For commuter flights, airlines use smaller jets, called regional jets, some seating as few as six passengers. The majority of these planes are built by Canadian airplane manufacturer Bombardier and Brazilian manufacturer Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica (Embraer).
Aircraft for General Aviation
Aerospace manufacturers produce more than 30 types of general aviation aircraft, a category that encompasses corporate aircraft, recreational airplanes, planes used to spray agricultural crops, and helicopters for police, ambulance, and patrol service. Corporate aircraft are usually powered by jet engines and carry up to 40 passengers. Major manufacturers in the corporate jet market include the Cessna Aircraft Company, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, and Raytheon in the United States, Bombardier in Canada, and Dassault Aviation in France. Recreational pilots commonly fly single-seat or twin-seat planes designed and manufactured by several companies, including Cessna and The New Piper (formerly Piper Aircraft Corporation).
Other aerospace firms specialize in designing and building the engines that power aircraft. The three most common types of jet engines are the turbojet, the turboprop, and the turbofan (see Jet Propulsion). In turbojet engines, energy produced by burning fuel spins a turbine that compresses the air entering the engine and directs it into a combustion chamber, where it is mixed with fuel vapor and burned. Turboprop engines are driven almost entirely by a propeller mounted in front of the engine. Turbofans combine air passing through the engine, hot engine exhaust, and air from a fan.
Production of large jet engines for airliners is dominated by American jet engine manufacturers General Electric Company and Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce of Britain. These companies also produce engines for jet fighters, bombers, and transports. Several manufacturers produce smaller gas turbines for corporate jets and helicopters. AlliedSignal Engines, part of Honeywell International in the United States, supplies a wide range of engines for regional airliners, corporate jets, helicopters, and military aircraft.
Aerospace firms design and build a wide variety of missiles for military use. These range in size from large guided missiles that carry nuclear warheads to small portable rockets carried and launched by foot soldiers. Modern missiles incorporate their own propulsion systems and sophisticated guidance systems.
Surface-fired missiles launch from the ground or the sea. There are two chief types of surface-fired missiles: those fired at targets on Earth’s surface or in its oceans, and those fired at targets in the air. The largest surface-to-surface missiles are intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads to targets as far as 15,000 km (9,200 mi) away. Soldiers use smaller surface-to-surface missiles against enemy tanks or troops. Still other missiles dive deep into the ocean to search out and destroy enemy submarines. Surface-to-air missiles are used against airborne targets, such as airplanes or other missiles. This category includes the U.S. Army’s Patriot missile system, a large missile and launcher that intercepts and destroys enemy missiles before they strike. The Patriot missile system was developed for the U.S. military by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Patriots are also used by Germany, Israel, Japan, and a number of other countries.
Air-launched missiles are launched from fighter aircraft. Missiles in this category tend to be short-range. Air-to-air missiles, such as the U.S. Sidewinder missile built by Raytheon and other companies, usually rely on infrared heat-seeking devices to track their targets. These sophisticated missiles follow and destroy enemy aircraft and can change course when their targets do. Air-to-surface missiles commonly incorporate global positioning and inertial guidance systems, or miniature television homing systems.
Spacecraft and Launch Vehicles
Aerospace contractors design and build spacecraft for military and commercial purposes, and for use in space exploration. Products in this category include unmanned spacecraft, such as satellites and space probes, and piloted spacecraft. Other aerospace contractors design and build the rockets used to propel spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space.
Telecommunications companies contract with aerospace manufactures to design and build communications satellites. These Earth-orbiting satellites transmit radio signals from cellular telephones, television broadcasting, and a number of other wireless communications. Military networks of defense-system satellites detect missile and satellite launches in other countries. Surveillance satellites provide a way to monitor activity in other countries, making it possible to detect terrorist actions or other illegal activities. The U.S. military also maintains 24 satellites as part of the global positioning system (GPS), an electronic satellite navigation system. Research satellites gather scientific information. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses research satellites to observe Earth, other planets and their moons, comets, stars, and galaxies. The Hubble Space Telescope orbits about 610 km (about 380 mi) above Earth’s surface, photographing objects as far as 15 billion light-years away.
The largest manufacturers of satellites include the American companies Hughes Space and Communications Company, Lockheed Martin, and Loral Space & Communications, and the French conglomerate Alcatel. These and other satellite manufacturers develop, build, and sometimes operate satellites for private companies, the military, and governments.
The space shuttle is the only piloted spacecraft produced in the United States. It consists of three main components: an orbiter, propulsion systems—two solid rocket boosters and three main engines—and an external fuel tank. Shuttle orbiters are reusable, designed to withstand 100 missions or more each. Many different aerospace contractors contribute to the shuttle’s design, construction, and maintenance. NASA and the United Space Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, oversee shuttle design and construction.
Some aerospace companies design and build launch vehicles—rockets that propel spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space. To escape Earth’s atmosphere, launch vehicles must reach velocities of about 30,000 km/h (about 18,500 mph). To achieve this speed and power, aerospace firms build rockets composed of two or more engines, one atop another. The largest manufacturers of launch vehicles include Lockheed Martin, which makes several versions of its Atlas and Titan rockets, and French rocket manufacturer Arianespace, which builds the Ariane launch vehicle. Boeing also manufacturers rockets for use as launch vehicles. Rockets from Boeing’s Delta family, for example, launched all the GPS satellites.
Flight Equipment and Navigational Aids
The fourth and final category encompasses the thousands of different pieces of equipment and equipment systems found on flight vehicles and ground-based flight support facilities. Some firms specialize in flight and engine controls for various flight vehicles. The space shuttle orbiter has more than 2,000 different controls and displays in the crew compartment. Other firms design and build instruments for flight navigation and radar systems, landing gear, flight data recorders, and cabin-pressure control systems. Still others manufacture seats, lights, kitchen equipment, and waste management systems. Companies that specialize in missile technology build state-of-the-art guidance systems, such as infrared heat-seeking devices and computer navigational systems.
Aerospace firms also produce ground-based navigational systems that support flight vehicles. These range from the radar, radio, and computers used in air traffic control at airports to the state-of-the-art command and control systems that track and operate spacecraft millions of miles from Earth. Others produce sophisticated remote controls that enable engineers on the ground to change a spacecraft’s course or to operate telescopes or cameras.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The area of research and development constitutes one of the largest expenditures of the aerospace industry. Development of a new flight vehicle might take a decade or more and involve thousands of people. Such an endeavor requires significant advances in equipment and systems—in some cases it calls for entirely new inventions—and several billion dollars. Because the cost of developing new flight vehicles is so high, most large aerospace companies devote their research and development resources to improving existing products. They may redesign aircraft components to make them lighter and more fuel efficient, for example, or redesign wings or body surfaces to make the craft travel faster (see Aerodynamics).
Much of the design process takes place on supercomputers capable of performing billions of operations per second. Computer-aided design enables engineers to test thousands of design parameters, such as the shape or angle of wings. The designer uses a computer to create a model of the flight vehicle’s basic structure, or airframe, and then to simulate flight in various atmospheric conditions (see Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing). In addition to the shape and size of the airframe, engineers must also consider thousands of details. For example, they must consider the weight and placement of the engines, how and where fuel will be stored, the type and layout of instruments in the cockpit, and details of the passenger compartment, such as the number of seats and their dimensions. In designing commercial airplanes, engineers must also plan for entertainment systems, food storage and preparation, and the location and number of lavatories.
After preliminary computer designs are in place, engineers build a scale model of the aircraft and subject it to a series of tests in a wind tunnel. Wind tunnels simulate the conditions encountered by the flight vehicle as it moves through the air. Many research facilities have their own wind tunnels. Manufacturers also have access to government-funded wind tunnels, such as NASA’s Ames Research Center tunnel at Moffett Field, California. This massive wind tunnel can accommodate a full-size aircraft with a wingspan of 22 m (72 ft). Observations made during wind tunnel testing confirm or invalidate design assumptions tested on the computer. Engineers use the results of the wind tunnel tests to refine design as necessary.
Once the design has been finalized, engineers build one or more full-size prototypes of the flight vehicle and subject them to a barrage of additional tests. Engineers confirm that the structure can withstand the thundering vibrations and heat produced by the jet engines. They use machines to bend, twist, and push the aircraft to verify that it can withstand the stresses it will likely encounter during flight. Engineers also confirm that flight instruments will withstand the pressure and sub-zero temperatures of high altitudes. The engines, landing gear, navigational systems, and other aircraft equipment undergo equally rigorous testing. Finally, pilots take a prototype for a test flight to verify the results of earlier exercises.
The manufacturing process is usually coordinated by a prime contractor that manages a number of subcontractors specializing in particular components of the flight vehicle. Subcontractors build and test their products in their own facilities, then deliver them to the prime contractor’s facility to be integrated into the flight vehicle. The prime contractor oversees the assembly of the flight vehicle, ensures that the project meets schedule and budget requirements, and assumes ultimate responsibility for the safety of the aircraft.
Modern aircraft are often built from parts that come from all over the world. For example, the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 commercial jet, which entered production in the early 1990s, incorporated parts from Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the United States, and Britain. The exterior panels of the plane’s main body, or fuselage, were produced by the Italian company Aeritalia, which also supplied the plane’s vertical stabilizer and other parts. The Spanish firm CASA made landing-gear doors and the horizontal stabilizer. Japanese companies supplied certain tail parts and movable flaps on the wings called ailerons. Additional ailerons came from Brazil, the nose gear originated in Britain, Canadian firms delivered major wing assemblies, and the engines were built in the United States and Britain. The plane came together at the plant of the prime contractor, McDonnell Douglas, in California.
The earliest aviators made their own wood-framed airplanes by hand. Orville and Wilbur Wright completed their historic 1903 flight in a machine of their own design. While the Wright brothers quietly worked to perfect and patent their flying machine, Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont designed and flew a biplane in Paris in 1906. In the following years, fledgling aviation further captured the attention of the public. Wilbur Wright made a triumphal airplane tour of Europe in the summer of 1908. In July 1909 French aviator Louis Blériot flew a plane of his own design across the English channel, completing a highly symbolic journey in the history of flight.
The First Airplane Manufacturers
The success of the Wright brothers, Santos-Dumont, and other pioneering aviators created a small demand for flying machines on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In Paris, France, the Voisin brothers, who had helped Santos-Dumont build his biplane in 1906, set up the first facility to build airplanes for sale. In the earliest airplane shops, a small number of workers built airplanes from wood and bamboo frameworks covered with fabric. They used modified engines from automobiles and motorcycles or lightweight boat engines to power the planes. They tested new ideas by building the planes to see if they worked.
By 1909 the Voisin brothers had gained a reputation for building reliable airplanes. That year, several competitors arrived with Voisin machines at an aerial exhibition and flying meet held at Rheims, France. Publicity from the exhibition at Rheims brought orders for about 20 more by the end of the year.
World War I
In the years leading up to World War I, militaries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean grew to appreciate the role airplanes could serve in the military. While Wilbur Wright toured Europe to attract the interest of the public, Orville Wright demonstrated their invention before officers of the U.S. Army. Blériot’s successful crossing of the English Channel convinced European militaries of their need for airplanes.
The military saw uses for airplanes in aerial scouting missions and to carry small bombs that were dropped by hand (see Air Warfare). The Nieuport firm, founded in France in 1909, responded to this demand by producing monoplanes for the French army and for military services in Italy, Britain, Russia, and Sweden. Blériot and a number of other manufacturers followed suit, and by the start of World War I in the summer of 1914, Germany, France, Britain, and Russia each had 200 to 300 military planes plus several airships. American manufacturers lagged behind their European counterparts. In 1912 U.S. firms produced just 39 airplanes. In 1915, as the war raged across Europe, the United States Congress formed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to fund research and development in the flight industry. Despite this effort, when the United States entered the war in 1917, it had only 16 airplane-building companies, and only 6 of them had built as many as ten airplanes.
The rate of airplane manufacture in Europe and the United States skyrocketed during the war. Britain turned out more than 55,000 airplanes from 1914 to 1918, and Germany produced 40,000 airplanes during the same period. The fledgling American industry also rallied behind the war effort, turning out 14,000 planes in 1918 alone. By the end of the war, the American aerospace industry had grown to 200,000 workers.
Innovation Between the Wars
In the years following World War I, the frenzied pace of airplane production slowed, and the aircraft industry turned its attention to improvements to aircraft design. American and British firms, encouraged by NACA in the United States and the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Britain, investigated a broad range of design innovations. Progressive techniques of design, engineering, and construction also came from graduates of newly established professional aeronautical engineering schools, first introduced during the 1920s. These innovation efforts resulted in dramatic changes to aircraft. Wooden airframes gave way to lightweight metal structures, while improvements in engine technology and fuels yielded greater speed and engine reliability.
These and other advances opened up new uses for airplanes. In 1921 the U.S. Post Office began regular transcontinental airmail service between New York City and San Francisco, California. Boeing developed its first commercial aircraft, the Model 40, in 1927 after winning a contract to fly mail for the U.S. Postal Service between Chicago, Illinois, and San Francisco.
In 1933 Boeing introduced the twin-engine Model 247 airplane, an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and room for ten passengers. The Model 247 revolutionized commercial aircraft design but was soon displaced by the larger, faster DC-3 designed and built by the Douglas Aircraft Company. The DC-3 carried 21 passengers and could travel across the country in less than 24 hours, though it had to stop many times for fuel. The DC-3 quickly came to dominate commercial aviation in the late 1930s and helped establish the United States as the leading producer of global airline equipment.
World War II
In 1939 World War II broke out in Europe. Airplane manufacturers in Britain and France, already overburdened with orders for military aircraft, placed massive orders for planes and equipment with American manufacturers. In response, the American aeronautics industry significantly expanded its production capabilities. By the time the United States entered the war in December 1941, the nation’s aerospace industry was prepared to meet the increased demand for aircraft and produced more than 300,000 aircraft before the war was over.
During the war the geographic centers of U.S. aircraft production, traditionally concentrated on the coasts, became more diversified. Wartime planners moved production inland to improve security against foreign attack and to satisfy the skyrocketing demand for workers. In Wichita, Kansas, formerly center of the light plane industry, manufacturers produced thousands of training aircraft and larger combat planes. New facilities in Atlanta, Georgia, built B-29 bombers, and new plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas turned out B-24 Liberator bombers, P-51 Mustang fighters, and AT-6 trainers.
World War II military research also produced technological innovations that forever changed aviation. Rocket scientists in Germany developed missile prototypes that later served as the foundation for space exploration. The most important of these prototypes was the world’s first large-scale rocket, the A-4 (later renamed the V-2).
Wartime efforts also resulted in the use of jet propulsion in military aircraft. In the late 1930s British aeronautical engineer Frank Whittle made the first successful tests of the turbojet engine. The Germans, French, and Italians made subsequent improvements to jet engine design during the war. The British shared their engine technology with the United States, and by the end of World War II in 1945, Germany, Britain, and the United States had built jet-powered fighter planes.
After the war, most airplane manufacturers shifted their efforts back to passenger airplanes. They incorporated technology developed for troop transports during the war, such as pressurized cabins. This innovation enabled pilots to fly at higher altitudes, above turbulent weather, increasing passenger comfort. Lockheed began commercial production of the Constellation, one of the first commercial airplanes with a pressurized cabin. The Constellation joined the Douglas DC-3 and the newer DC-6 in transcontinental and transatlantic service. Together these large, comfortable airliners posed a significant threat to railway travel and ocean liners as the principal modes of long-distance transportation.
The Cold War
Following World War II, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) engaged in a long struggle that came to be known as the Cold War. The defense budgets of both countries escalated during this period as each tried to stay ahead of the other’s military technology. Assisted by NACA research and generous federal funding for aeronautical research and development, American firms such as General Electric and Pratt & Whitney developed powerful jet engines. These new engines powered subsequent generations of military aircraft, such as the North American F-86 Sabre fighter and the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber. American manufacturers reaped additional profits during the Cold War by selling helicopters, fighters, and transport aircraft to friendly foreign powers.
In 1957 the USSR put Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit. In response, the United States revamped its aerospace efforts. In 1958 it restructured NACA and dubbed the new organization the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA devoted all of its resources to catching up with—and beating—the Soviet space program. The United States also announced its intention to be the first nation to put a human on the moon. This led to the Apollo program, a multibillion-dollar space exploration effort that eventually sent 12 American astronauts to the surface of the moon.
Rise of Commercial Air Travel
British aerospace engineers revolutionized the air transport industry when they incorporated the jet engine, previously used only in military aircraft, into a commercial plane. The de Havilland Comet, introduced in 1952, was celebrated as the first commercial airplane powered by jet engines. Unforeseen structural weaknesses in the Comet caused a series of crashes, two of them fatal. The Comet was grounded for investigation for several years, giving American manufacturers the opportunity to catch up to their British counterparts. In the late 1950s Boeing and Douglas introduced the jet-powered 707 and DC-8. Pan American World Airways inaugurated Boeing 707 jet service in October 1958, and air travel changed dramatically almost overnight. Transatlantic jet service enabled travelers to fly from New York City to London, England, in less than eight hours, half the time a propeller airplane took to fly that distance. Boeing’s 707 carried 112 passengers at high speed and quickly completed the displacement of ocean liners and railroads as the principal form of long-distance transportation.
In 1970 Boeing introduced the extremely successful 747, a huge, wide-body airliner. The giant aircraft, nicknamed the “jumbo jet,” could carry more than 400 people and several hundred tons of cargo. Douglas and Lockheed soon turned out their own versions of the jumbo jet, the DC-10 and the L-1011.
Globalization and Mergers
The Cold War, the space race, and advances in civil aeronautics made the aerospace industry one of the United States’ largest employers and one of the strongest and most robust industries of any kind in the world. By the late 1960s European aerospace industries were seeking ways to reduce their dependence on American manufacturers.
In an effort to usurp American leadership in the production of civil airliners, Britain and France joined forces to develop the Concorde supersonic transport, the first commercial jet to fly faster than the speed of sound (see Aerodynamics: Supersonics). The Concorde, introduced in 1967, set the stage for other multinational European efforts to build and sell airplanes in competition with the big American aerospace companies. In 1970 French, German, British, and Spanish aerospace companies collaborated to form Airbus Industrie (now Airbus). The Airbus A-300 airplane, introduced four years later, inaugurated a family of air transports that by the early 2000s ranked second only to Boeing in worldwide sales. Additional European programs evolved as multinational groups formed to develop fighters, attack aircraft, and helicopters.
In 1989, the collapse of the USSR and the ensuing demise of the Cold War brought fundamental changes to the global aerospace industrial community. Soviet aerospace agencies reorganized as private entities that often collaborated with Asian, European, and American firms—strategic partnering that put them in better positions to obtain contracts. This strategy touched off a wave of mergers in the American aerospace industry. Martin-Marietta acquired the aerospace division from General Electric Company in 1992, then merged with the aerospace giant Lockheed two years later. In 1997 Boeing acquired longtime rival McDonnell Douglas Corporation and in 2000 acquired Hughes Electronics Corporation’s space and communications division, the world's leading manufacturer of communications satellites. Several European firms announced their intention to combine forces to challenge the newly formed American aerospace giants. In 1999 the French, German, and Spanish partners in the Airbus consortium merged to form the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, and by 2001 Airbus was a single centralized company.