Some military analysts believe that long-range bombing capabilities (B-21 Raider shown) can serve as a stop-gap before Australia’s next generation of submarines are onboarded into the military. Credit: Department of Defense.

As China steadily grows stronger on all military and domestic fronts, its navy, its army and its air force, also grows in confidence and capability.

Beijing, also grows bolder by the day, unleashing what the West perceives as political intimidation, backed by economic and strategic threats.

The problem, of course, is that as it follows the path, of “wolf warrior” policies, it actually grows more isolated, and its rivals, enemies if you will, know this all too well.

For those not following the Chinese campaign against Australia, Chinese leaders have made it very clear they believe Australia must comply with their plans to dominate the Pacific, Breaking Defense reported.

The Chinese threat has been stated clearly in the Chinese state media: “China has a strong production capability, including producing additional long-range missiles with conventional warheads that target military objectives in Australia when the situation becomes highly tense.”

If someone is threatening to kill you, you’d best believe them. 

And a stronger Australia, means a stronger US in the Indo-Pacific.

In an exchange of bizarre insults over escalating trade tensions, China branded Australia as looking like a “giant kangaroo that acts as the dog of the US.”

Well, that “dog” is adding some bite.

According to Jane’s, the US Department of State has approved a potential US$3.5 billion Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Australia of 29 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters along with related equipment and services.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 3 June that Canberra has requested to buy:

  • The state of the art Apache rotorcraft, along with 64 T700-GE 701D engines (58 installed, 6 spares);
  • 29 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors;
  • 16 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars with radar electronic units;
  • 29 AN/APR-48B Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers;
  • 70 embedded global positioning systems with inertial navigation systems plus multimode receiver (58 installed, 12 spares);
  • 35 AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (29 installed, 6 spares);
  • and 70 AN/ARC-231A very-high frequency/ultra-high frequency (VHF/UHF) radios (58 installed, 12 spares).

Also included in the proposed deal, which still needs to be approved by the US Congress, are 85 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 29 M36E8 Hellfire captive air training missiles and 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System Guidance units.

The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile first developed for anti-armor use, but later models were developed for precision drone strikes against other target types, and have been used in a number of actions aimed to “destroy high-value targets.”

In addition, the Hellfire can be launched from multiple air, sea and ground platforms, autonomously or with remote designation. From pre-launch to detonation, the AGM-114R employs a range of technological improvements that boost its effectiveness and utility, Forecast International reports.

The Boeing Apache is an American twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. Credit: Boeing.

The AGM-114R features a three–axis inertial measurement unit, which enables properly equipped launch platforms to engage targets to the side and behind without maneuvering into position.

A new multi–purpose warhead enables the missile to defeat hard, soft and enclosed targets, which allows pilots to engage many targets with a single Hellfire loadout.

Paul Dibb, a noted Australian strategist and former intelligence official, has argued that China’s moves are significantly reducing the country’s warning time in the face of any attack.

“The Chinese have been clearly communicating for some time that it is now time to teach Australia a lesson. They used similar language against Vietnam in 1979 prior to their invasion,” he said in a recent interview.

“And there are many ways they could generate force to pressure Australia, without directly striking the country, such as take us on in our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, threatening our offshore energy platforms. And by so doing, put the challenge directly to Australia.”

Breaking Defense reports that the US has brought B-1 bombers to participate with the ADF (Australian Defense Force) in Northern Australia.

By deploying a rotational force of B-2s to the North of Australia, a stealth bomber capability could be brought to the defense of Australia.

It would be an important immediate input to responding to China, but it would also underscore to the Chinese that their military buildup in the Pacific — especially that directed against Australia — is not in their own interest.

By training the Royal Australia Navy and the Royal Australian Navy to work with the B-2s, B-1s and B-52s, those two key Australian power projection forces can train with operational long-range strike assets.

There further is discussion in Australia about whether buying the B-21 is the right answer for longer-range strike or if there are other options.

The AGM-114 Hellfire is a family of 100 lb class laser guided missiles for use against fixed and moving targets by both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft including UAVs. Credit: USAF photo.

Marcus Hellyer in ASPI’s (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) wrote in the The Strategist that long-range bombing capabilities can serve as a stop-gap before Australia’s next generation of submarines are onboarded into the military.

“These include long-range strike capabilities to impose greater cost on potential great-power adversaries at greater range from Australia,” Hellyer argues.

Hellyer outlines that Australia’s current fleet of F-35A jets do not currently meet the requirements for strike missions in the event of a potential conventional war in the Indo-Pacific, as they are only capable of operating in a 1,000-kilometre radius — shorter than the striking distance of modern Chinese missile systems.

Meanwhile, Australia’s current fleet of submarines (numbering only six) also don’t possess sufficient missile-carrying capacity to serve as a deterrent.

The Northrup B-21 Raider is designed to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons —and is meant to enter service by 2027.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in 2018 the Air Force has estimated that developing and procuring the first 100 aircraft will cost US$80 billion (in 2016 dollars).

Sources: Breaking Defense, Jane’s, Wikipedia, Forecast International, Daily Mercury, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, AeroMag