Issue Briefs

Should Washington Sell The B-21 Bomber To Australia?

Should Washington Sell The B-21 Bomber To Australia?

By Loren Thompson,

December 4, 2019


The U.S. Air Force is developing a long-range bomber that will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world. It is called the B-21 Raider, and will be the most survivable, versatile strike aircraft ever built. It is likely to eventually replace all the heavy bombers in the current U.S. fleet.

On November 6, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published an article in its journal The Strategist arguing that Australia should buy 12-20 B-21s from the United States. The article was written by senior analyst Marcus Hellyer, who convincingly laid out the geopolitical, operational and budgetary logic of such a move.

The United States sells a diverse array of weapons to overseas allies and partners, but long-range bombers have not been offered in the past. All of the heavy bombers in the current U.S. fleet are operated exclusively by the U.S. Air Force. However, Mr. Hellyer’s case for such a sale seems broadly consistent with the goals of U.S. security policy in the Pacific.

Here are five reasons that I can see why Washington might want to break with precedent and sell the B-21 to Australia, once the bomber proves itself in testing.

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The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the author.

Loren B. Thompson is a Senior Adviser at GPI, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Thompson holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.