The United States spent at least $168 million hitting Libya’s air defense systems with Raytheon Co. Tomahawk cruise missiles and Northrop Grumman Co. B-2 bombers to open air space over the North African nation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
To pay for the mission, the U.S. Defense Department is expected to tap its operations and maintenance budget and avoid using funds slated for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to defense analysts and former congressional aides.
The Pentagon is currently funded at 2010 budget levels because Congress has not approved a final spending bill for fiscal year 2011.
“The money, for the time being, would come out of the regular operations and maintenance accounts,” said Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research organization in Washington that studies national security and military issues. “They always build in a little money for contingencies.”
In the first two days of the international coalition’s assault on Libya, the U.S. deployed three radar-evading B-2 bombers that dropped 45 Boeing Co.-made 2,000 pound, satellite- guided JDAM bombs on Libyan air defense sites. That mission cost the U.S. about $11 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The bombers flew from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Libya and back — more than 11,400 miles (18,346 kilometers) — without landing. They stayed airborne with four aerial refuelings. The $11 million spent for the mission includes the cost per flying hour of the B-2 bomber and the Boeing KC-135 refueling tanker, as well as the cost of the satellite-guided bombs.
$88,000 Per Hour
The B-2 costs about $88,000 per flight hour, and the Libya mission lasted about 30 hours. The KC-135 tanker costs $11,673 per hour to operate, and Bloomberg data was derived based on 10 hours of operation. One JDAM costs about $61,000, including the guidance system made by Boeing and the BLU-109 bomb it guides.
The money for flying the B-2 likely will come out of the money slated for training flying hours, said Gregory Kiley, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staff member who is now a consultant with Potomac Strategic Development in Washington.
The crews on the Libya mission “definitely don’t have to fly again this month,” he said. The operations and maintenance account is slated, in part, for “flying hours, ship steaming days and tank miles,” he said.
The Air Force’s budget for fiscal year 2010 included about $47 billion for operations and maintenance.
During the opening rounds of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. launched 112 Raytheon Co. Tomahawk cruise missiles from ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea to clear a path for manned aircraft. With each of Raytheon’s cruise missiles costing $1.4 million, the tab for the initial batch added up to almost $157 million.
The U.S. military has been flying other aircraft as part of the Libyan operation, including the Boeing F-15E and Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16CJ fighters. It costs $20,516 per hour to fly the F-15 and $9,366 to fly the F-16, according to data published by Defense Department comptroller’s office.
The U.S. Marine Corps flew Boeing’s AV-8B Harrier aircraft at $11,134 per flight hour, and the U.S. Navy sent the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic-jamming jets at $10,662 per hour of operation.
For fiscal year 2010, the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, had an operations and maintenance budget of $43.3 billion; that level continues through the stopgap measure currently funding the government. The Navy has several ships in the Mediterranean, including the submarines USS Providence, USS Scranton and USS Florida and the destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry.
The Defense Department has not provided details on how many hours the planes have been flying.
It is unclear whether the Obama administration will need to ask Congress for supplemental funding for the Libya operations, the CSBA’s Harrison said.
“We are spending in Afghanistan $2 billion a week. This is an order of magnitude less than that,” even if it is unclear how many assets are involved and how much they have been used so far, Harrison said.
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