The air war in Libya has cost the United States approximately US$750 million, according to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, exceeding earlier estimates.
“It’s probably at this point somewhere in the ballpark of 750 million dollars,” Gates told US Marines during a visit to the Camp Lejeune base in North Carolina yesterday.
On April 11 the Pentagon estimated the operation had cost the US military US$608 million from the start of international air strikes on March 19 to April 4, a figure that includes pay and other normal deployment costs.
The United States spent roughly US$55 million a day in the first ten days of operations, which then dropped to about US$8.3 million a day for the following week, Army Times reports.
The US military earlier said its military operations over Libya would stabilise to US$40 million a month, once NATO took over the UN-mandated operation.
The Pentagon says the most recent figure is not indicative of unexpectedly high costs. “The numbers are not higher than expected. We are still on track,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan.
Although NATO has officially taken over the operation, since early April the US has played a supporting role, providing refuelling tankers and surveillance aircraft, AFP reports. In addition, from April 21 the US also provided two Predator drones to join in air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
It has been estimated that the no-fly zone over Libya could end up costing the Western coalition more than US$1 billion (611 million pounds) if the operation drags on more than a couple of months, Reuters reports.
Zack Cooper, a senior analyst at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the initial cost of eliminating Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s air defences was likely to be between US$400 million and US$800 million.
The expense of patrolling the no-fly zone once it is established is likely to be US$30 million to US$100 million a week, he said.
By comparison, the much more extensive Afghan war costs more than US$9 billion a month, Reuters reports.