BLUF

The ADF’s long-range capability gap could be filled by the acquisition of the B-21 stealth bomber, currently under development in the US.

Summary

According to ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer, ‘the Australian Defence Force’s long-range strike cupboard is bare’. In this article Hellyer makes the following points:
  • One option that could deliver formidable long-range strike power well before Australia’s future submarines arrive is bombers
  • The only real candidate for a crewed long-range bomber is the B-21 stealth bomber, planned to enter US service late this decade.
  • The B-21 will have three or four times the range of the F-35, which are only capable of about 1000 kilometres without tanker support.
  • The B-21 could be based deep inside Australia, far from threats—due to its long-range capabilities—and still not need to rely on tanker support.
The US is aiming for a unit price under $1 billion. Therefore, a squadron of 12 aircraft will likely total around $20–25 billion once bases, support systems (such as simulators) and maintenance facilities are considered.