Two former RAAF chiefs have called for an urgent review of Australia's strike capabilities to meet the threat from China amid concerns of a US withdrawal from the region.
But a Trump cabinet secretary says America has no intention of vacating its position.
Retired air marshals Leo Davies and Geoff Brown say Australia may need to acquire a strategic bomber, drones and land-based ballistic missiles to better defend the nation and protect maritime routes in the future.
"The force that we used to carry out nation-building in the Middle East cannot defend our sea lines of communication or prevent the lodgement of hostile power in the Indo-Pacific region," Mr Davies told The Australian.
"But without a reset we will keep developing it against an outdated set of strategic circumstances."
Mr Brown predicted the air force was likely to overtake the army as the security force of "first resort".
"As an advanced technological nation about to get deeply into space we should be playing to our strengths," he said.
"Investment in aircrew and technology is actually incredibly efficient for a small nation with an educated population."
Mr Davies said the 1999 East Timor intervention saw Australia focusing on building up its land forces and this focus has now gone too far, considering the changes in the strategic environment.
"Everyone thought conventional wars were almost a thing of the past," Mr Davies said.
"That judgment now looks rather optimistic."
He said conventional threats were now more relevant than dealing with counter-insurgency.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his country's relationship with Australia was becoming "more intense, not less".
"We have no intention of vacating our geopolitical or our military position but we would be delighted to sell Australia more aircraft if that's what suits your Department of Defence," he told reporters from Thailand, where he has attended ASEAN talks.
He highlighted new cooperation with the US in space and the rare earths that are vital to technology.
"If and when there's another big-scale conflict, it's very likely going to be importantly in the space area and in the cyber area," Mr Ross said.
"So while fighter planes and bomber planes and all that are always obviously going to stay important, we think that it's equally important for your country, for our country and for all countries to make sure they have robust defence in both cyber and outer space."
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds pointed to a force structure review under way that will look at emerging threats.
"This work will inform future consideration of any adjustments to the force," she said.
"In our challenging and dynamic strategic environment, we need a defence strategy that is fit for purpose."
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.