The shadow defence minister has urged the federal government to explore the potential of purchasing the in-development B-21 Raider.
Andrew Hastie referenced remarks from Admiral Phil Davidson, the former Commander of Indo-Pacific Command, who last year warned China could take military action against Taiwan over the next six years — a timeline referred to as the ‘Davidson window’.
“We’re now five years [away] if we go with his timeline [and] we’re not going to see a nuclear submarine in the next five years,” shadow minister Hastie said.
“The question is, what are we going to do to hedge against that happening in the next five years, which is [why] we need to start talking about strike capabilities like missiles and potentially B-21s out of the United States.
“We need to be able to hold an adversary at risk, at distance, out passed the archipelago to our north and in order to do that, you need strike capabilities — missiles, aircraft and long-term, nuclear submarines.”
The B-21 is the ‘sequel’ to the UFO-like B-2 Spirit, which can carry nuclear weapons and costs $2 billion each.
Introduced in the late 1980s, the batwing bomber is seen as the US’ most prestigious and prized aircraft, with only 20 in active service.
It comes weeks after five of the originals arrived at Base Amberley for a month of training with RAAF F-35s, in what was certainly its biggest ever deployment to the region.
Hastie’s backing of the new B-21 Raider comes just days after Northrop Grumman confirmed the bomber is scheduled to be officially unveiled in the first week of December.
The shadow minister also acknowledged the capability gap ahead of the delivery of Australia’s future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines promised under AUKUS.
He backed the purchase of existing SSN designs — like the United Kingdom’s Astute Class and the United States’ Virginia Class vessels — in light of the government’s reported interest in supporting the development of a new design in cooperation with AUKUS partners.
“We’ll wait and see what comes out in March when the AUKUS working group finishes its work,” he said.
“But I think we want to make it as least complex as possible, which means going with one of the established designs — either the Astute Class or the Virginia Class…”
Shadow minister Hastie noted the importance of strengthening Australia’s sovereign defence industry but stressed “capability must come first”.