Shadow defence minister Andrew Hastie has said Australia must quickly invest in bombers and drones to prepare for a potential conflict.
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In comments made at a business breakfast in Perth, the former SAS commander called for an increase in defence spending “well above” 2 per cent of GDP and argued that “the window is closing fast” for Australia to be ready for a major war.
“I don’t want to discuss particulars here today except to make clear that we need to build strike capabilities that can hold an adversary at risk beyond the archipelago to our north,” he said in words reported by The Australian.
“(We need) strike bombers, precision-guided missiles and unmanned autonomous vehicles — in the skies and in the seas below.”
He also urged Defence to better target younger people to encourage them to sign up for the military.
“Emphasising the service ethos is critical. Duty, honour and country,” said the shadow minister.
“They may seem antiquated, but they are values and principles that call people to stand and fight for something bigger than themselves. Aren’t these values we would all want to see in our employees?”
Hastie’s storied service saw him deployed to Afghanistan as a Cavalry Troop Leader before becoming a troop commander in the SAS as well as touring the Middle East and Indo-Pacific. He first entered parliament in 2015, where he won the Canning by-election for the Liberals.
It comes after Defence Connect’s sister brand, Australian Aviation, reported in September how Hastie urged the federal government to explore the potential of purchasing the in-development B-21 Raider.
He 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,” he 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.