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Australia places greater value on long-range missiles than B-21s

In keeping with its focus on long-range strike capability, Australia hopes to upgrade its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fleet to the Block 4 standard. This is to integrate the JSM with the aircraft. This missile has a maximum range of 300 n mile. (Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia's rejection of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider for acquisition has prompted it to focus on improving its long-range strike capabilities using existing aircraft.

Janes assesses that this decision was made based on factors of long-range deterrence, plus acquisition and sustainment costs.

In a statement to Janes, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) reiterated the position of Australia's Defence Strategic Review (DSR) that the B-21 Raider “is not considered a suitable current option for acquisition”.

“Defence operates a range of platforms that deliver long-range airborne strike effects,” the spokesperson said. “As the [DSR] recommended, Defence is considering options to integrate the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) onto the [Lockheed Martin] F-35A and [Boeing] F/A-18F Super Hornet, and the Joint Strike Missile [JSM] onto the F-35A at the earliest opportunity.”

The unclassified version of the DSR document was made public in April. It reveals that Australia is specifically aiming to improve its long-range precision strikes in the maritime domain.

“The integration of the (LRASM) onto air force platforms will provide Defence with an improved long-range maritime strike capability against high-threat maritime surface targets,” a DoD spokesperson told Janes.

According to Janes data, the AGM-158C LRASM is a precision-guided, anti-ship stand-off weapon designed to meet the anti-surface warfare needs of the US Navy and the US Air Force (USAF). Janes data adds that it has a maximum estimated range of 926 km. The missile is intended to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships.

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