NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Smart Bombs" Cost Money -- Lots Of It

May 4, 1999

The bombardment of Yugoslavia could go down as the most expensive campaign in American history -- bomb for bomb. Laser-guided missiles, used in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties, cost many times more than their less technologically-advanced counterparts.

  • Cruise missiles fired from ships and submarines run $1 million a piece, and those launched from B-52s cost twice that.
  • By contrast, a laser-guided 2,000 pound bomb dropped from a radar-evading F-117 costs $26,200, while an unguided bomb from a B-1 or B-52 runs about $600.
  • It costs $8,300 an hour to fly a B-52 -- the most expensive of the craft being used in the war -- and costs for other craft range down to $1,740 an hour for an F-117.
  • The Pentagon says the war is costing $37 million a day -- not including relief operations -- while the Persian Gulf War cost $61 billion during its 44-day duration.

Bad weather inhibits a pilot's ability to aim a laser-guided bomb and, as of last week, there had only been about half a dozen days free from rain or fog over targets.

Pentagon officials admit that the Air Force did not plan ahead -- as did the Army and the Navy -- in ordering night-vision goggles for its pilots that cost $7,000 a set. Meanwhile, the combat debut of the B-2 bomber has been notable in that its 31-hour round-trip journey from Missouri to the Balkans and back costs $5,719 an hour.

Source: Eric Schmitt, "It Costs a Lot More to Kill Fewer People," New York Times, May 2, 1999.


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