The cost to Britain of air action in Libya is running at around £3 million a day, defence experts said yesterday.
Based on the total amount spent on British air intervention in the Kosovo conflict, the Royal United Services Institute has calculated the cost to the tax payer of the Libyan campaign could reach £100 million within four to six weeks.
This includes Britain’s share of over 120 cruise missiles fired at Libyan positions since Saturday night. These cost over £500,000 each. However their use is likely to decrease now that military planners have satisfied themselves that Gaddafi’s air defences have been effectively destroyed.
It also includes the additional cost of air support to monitor the no-fly zone and intervening against Gaddafi’s forces on the ground.
For every hour spent in the air the cost of operating Britain’s Tornado GR4 and Typhoon aircraft is £35,000 and £70,000 respectively.
These figures, released earlier this year by the MOD, include servicing, fuel costs, crew costs, training costs, as well as the cost of the planes and depreciation.
The Typhoon cost per flying hour reflects the build-up of the fleet and the MOD is likely to argue that the additional cost of the Libyan operation will be less as, even in peace-time, both planes make regular training flights.
However the cost does not include the possibility of damage or loss to any aircraft during the operations.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, fellow in British Security Policy at the RUSI, said as operations continued the cost would fall.
“It is hard to see how you would keep up the same intensity of operations for six weeks,” he said. “Either you have significantly destroyed Gaddafi’s military capability or he has found a way to hide it. In both cases I cannot see the same level of intensity of operations continuing in the longer term.”
What is unclear is whether it each country in the coalition will have to bare it own military cost or whether it will be spread out amongst others who are taking a less active role in the campaign but none the less support its aims. That has not been agreed and may depend on its success.