U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Cost $100 Million to Date

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Cost $100 Million to Date

The U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic extremists in northern Iraq have probably cost about $100 million since they began three weeks ago, according to a defense budget analyst.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, said he devised the estimate after analyzing the number and type of strike and surveillance missions the Air Force and Navy has conducted so far.

“It’s very approximate, given how little we know of the details,” he said of the figure, which was previously reported by Colin Clark of Breaking Defense.

Harrison said he estimated the price tag of the operations to date at a range of between $74 million and $110 million, including between $56 million and $83 million for more than 1,200 surveillance sorties, between $14 million and $21 million on munitions, and between $4 million and $6 million for about 100 strike sorties.

While strike missions flown by such aircraft as the Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet have generated most of the headlines, the bulk of the cost actually comes from the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, which “tend to be longer because you’re loitering over an area,” Harrison said.

The ISR platforms also range in cost per flying hour, from only about $1,000 per flying hour for an MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper drone, to about $7,000 per flying hour for an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone to about $22,000 per flying hour for an E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Radar Attack System, or J-STAR, aircraft, Harrison said.

The estimate doesn’t take into account the cost of the U.S. military’s humanitarian airdrops to provide food and water to displaced Iraqi minorities, known as Yezidis, in the northeastern part of the country, Harrison said. “I imagine those were pretty small unless we were dropping pretty expensive bottled water or fresh lobster instead of MREs,” he said, referring to the military’s prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat.

The latest air campaign in Iraq appears to be far cheaper than the American-led airstrikes against Libya in 2011. The price tag for that bombing campaign reached almost $1 billion in less than five months, according to news reports.

That’s largely because the U.S. fired hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles — each of which costs about $1.5 million — from the USS Florida, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, in the span of just a few days, Harrison said.

While Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week indicated the Pentagon may need to adjust its fiscal 2015 budget request to account for the military operations that began Aug. 7 in Iraq, Harrison noted the cost of the effort is a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.3 billion the Defense Department is spending per week in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon requested a fiscal 2015 defense budget of about $554 billion, including a base budget of $496 billion and a war budget of about $59 billion. Congress hasn’t yet approved the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

What’s more, the White House requested a separate $5 billion counter-terrorism fund, of which, $4 billion would go to the Defense Department and $1 billion would go to the State Department — presumably for exactly the type of missions currently underway in Iraq.

“It seems like this is exactly the type of thing tht this fund should be used to cover,” Harrison said.

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This is the mission that the A-10 was built for! Send in the warthogs, and they can take a beating, and RTB! A big plus is the fact that you won’t FOD the engines out, so send them anywhere (except carrier landings –lol–). Never happen GI — DOD wants ‘em to go away (not cool enough for them). Listen to the warthog pilots or the troops on the ground to know what the A-10 can do, if you want the truth!

Gee whiz, Wally. If only the USA had retained air bases within Iraq itself, subject to a status-of-forces agreement. How much cheaper these very costly sorties would have been!

I agree, I do depot work on A-10s so I support keeping them around, they have been an important asset in the war on terror, but we need a place to park them. Someone got us out of Iraq to fast so our only resource are the carriers. I say we get another carrier over there in the Mediterranean and between the two carriers they pound anything that moves in Iraq and Syria. This cancer needs to be eradicated before they strike our homeland and we have a repeat of 911.

Studies have shown that when you conduct a terrorist attack on America people even 100km away go wobbly and get PTSD. No other country gives that sort of political bang for a buck.

In monetary terms ObL turns a $500k investment into a 1 trillon dollar cost to the American government that is a 200,000,000% ROI . Compare that to our air-force spending $100 million to destroy $500 million of equipment we supplied in Iraq which we then have spend another half billion to replace.

Just looking at these figures you can see what the 5 billion dollars in revenues ISIS makes every year could do some real damage to the US.

If we get a republican President next you can be sure he’ll be up for buying the fear the terrorists are selling again. In the mean time $100 million is enough to let the terrorist know we are still in the game — don’t forget about us — well come back to get hit later.

Well said Super. I think the big take away from this is that having the Navy dropping the ordnance is cost effective. Now if we could only lower the ISR costs (perhaps a small airbase in the North just South of the border from Turkey). Combine this with the restart of Task Force Black in Syria, and I think we’re about to see ISIS suffer a LOT of casualties.

Cancel the LCS that will pay for Iraq for another few months at least.

The Iraqi government would never have signed such an agreement. They wanted us out of their country and Bush agreed to a full withdraw.

Park a nuke sub in Baghdad, and see what happens. Maybe we will lose the whole country?

I would be interested to see his breakdown of estimated costs. Often estimates of costs are somewhat over estimated. For instance, if the MQ-1 and MQ-9 sorties are just redirected from somewhere else, then they are almost free. Sure, there is an opportunity cost, but very little real cash gets spent. The same is true for F-18s, CVWs regularly fly their aircraft, how much more did they fly? It is not like the carrier costs anymore. Even costs for ordnance can be overestimated. For instance, the USN expended vast quantities of Rockeye in Desert Storm and actually saved millions in demil costs.

Talk to me when we reach a billion…

A nuke sub in Baghdad? I’m afraid the river is far too shallow to allow sub to get there from the Gulf dumbell

$100,000,000 to date. Well that ought to be up a little to close to $1,500,000,000 by years end, maybe even by the 4 Nov 2014 elections. Troops on the ground by T-day after the announcement about 7 Nov 2014

i agree they are just waiting til this years election is over then send back the troops. i say lock the border down and let them fight it out amongst themselves!

Maybe we could bankroll our Middle East misadventures if we cut off the $3 billion dollars a year tribute that we pay to Israel. Why is the American taxpayer allows our government to hand over tons of money and our best military equipment to Israel? Israel is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. I have read (unsubstantiated) that the US supplies enough greenbacks annually, that if divided evenly, every Israeli would pocket $5K US taxpayer money. I don’t know why I writing this comment — it will surely be bombed by mil​.com thought police.

If push comes to shove we would probably re-arm Israel again, which is what we did during Yom Kippur (Operation Nickel Grass). A fresh infusion of American hardware presumably gave Israel confidence to release hardware from reserves, knowing that reserves were being replaced by the United States. Without Nickel Grass, Israel might have opted to stop at its antebellum borders instead of pushing deep into Syria and Egypt.

I am rather curious if Israel would continue to buy American hardware if we cut them off. If not, then the whole subsidizing of Israel was a racket to enrich nominally-American arms dealers on taxpayer dime.

Iraq will be a great place to expend munitions close to their expiry date. If we want to really save money, then go with strafing runs (since we need the practice) and dumb bombs.

Why stop there? Also, cut the $1.5 Billion sent to Egypt.

Metal tubes, explosives and elctronics cost about $70. The DoD needs to get their act together when buying. Maybe they need to employ a few practical engineers before the next puchase agreement. Suppliers have made their profit a long time ago. It’s about time the service members benefit frm their effort.

I assume you do realize that the aid is part of a foreign treaty and as such is not subject to change without cancelling the treaty, right? Foreign treaties are the supreme law of the land, Constitution 101.
Think of it as Jimmy Carter’s way of buying off the Egyptians for peace with Israel.

And it worked too, as there has been no major conflict between Israel and neighboring countries since 1973 and none at all with Egypt. Sure, minor skirmishes, but that has plagued the region since before 1948. Also, since the US gives aid to Egypt, there is tremendous leverage there since they would have a hard time maintaining their equipment without US contractors. And of course, they have to spend the money in the US, so it is not really $1.5 billion since a lot of it comes back in the form of reduced costs of US equipment as well as taxes. Certainly cheaper than keeping a requirement for a CV in the Med.

It’s a good thing we pulled entirely out of Iraq so early or we may have been able to use air power much less expensively than currently. W certainly don’t want that kind of efficiency, it would destroy everything our government seems to stand for. God forbid we let military wisdom surpass political desires when we fight our country’s enemies.

Egypt is not the issue. 1/3 that amount sent to Hamas that they used to build tunnels from which to attack our ally Israel instead of building housing for their citizens IS the issue. the 1/4 of the 168 member UN budget funded by the US IS the issue, not what we send to those countries that assist our position as does the current Egypt.

Saudi Arabia has plenty of air bases and aircraft. Let them bomb the ISIS ultra-extreme terrorist they are financially supporting against the Shia. We need to stay out of it this time around. We have NO business in a religious civil war, regardless of how bad things are. This is a violent part of the world and we need to let them defend themselves. We can’t, and shouldn’t, protect them. Call it separation of church and state.


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