Defence Minister Stephen Smith has vowed the federal government will not allow a gap to develop in Australia's air combat capability, ahead of the release of a new Defence White Paper.

The 2013 Defence White Paper, which will give a fresh vision for Australia's defence and its response to China's rising military power in the Asia-Pacific region, will be released in Canberra on Friday.

The new White Paper is tipped to tone down some of the more controversial judgments in the 2009 document, such as the warning on China's growing military power.

"We want China to emerge as a responsible stakeholder ... we want the atmosphere that sees that occur to be positive and constructive and that starts with the relationship between the US and China," Mr Smith told ABC radio.

He said the document would "stand the test of time" despite being released five months before the federal election.

The White Paper is expected to adopt more achievable funding plans, after an earlier, and unrealised, promise of three per cent real growth in defence budget spending until 2017-18.

"I've made it clear repeatedly that the government will not allow a gap to occur in our air combat capability," Mr Smith said.

"We've also made it clear that when it comes to our naval capability we want to ensure that we have an ongoing capacity."

There have been delays in receiving joint strike fighters from the US and speculation that super hornets will bridge that gap.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston says super hornets are a fine aircraft.

"They're an obvious choice if we have a capability gap," Senator Johnston told ABC TV.

"Twelve growlers ... are very effective, I'm very taken by them."

He reiterated that the coalition supported buying up to 100 extra joint strike fighter planes.

Senator Johnston said the federal government had taken defence spending as a share of gross domestic product back to 1938 levels.

"This minister can't paper over the cracks with spin about other countries cutting defence," he said.

Senator Johnston said a coalition government would put out its own white paper within 18 months.

 

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