At the beginning of 2015 the United States Air Force significantly increased the level of its attacks on the so-called Islamic State in Syria, effectively dropping even more of its sophisticated weaponry than at any time since it officially started in September 2014.
At the time it meant that 60 percent of all airstrikes carried out were by the U.S. Air Force alone. The remaining 40 percent of bombs dropped on ISIS were by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and coalition partners under various guises.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement – “We are now expending munitions faster than we can replenish them. We’ve dropped 20,000 bombs and missiles on ISIS since the war began 15 months ago.”
Welsh supported this extraordinary statement with “B-1s have dropped bombs in record numbers. We need the funding in place to ensure we’re prepared for the long fight. This is a critical need.”
Pentagon data shows that as of October 31, there have been 24,255 air combat missions flown since September 2014 but there is uncertainty over the levels of munitions actually fired.
In the meantime, British Chancellor George Osborne has made claims that the cost of launching British airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria would be in the “low tens of millions of pounds.” This vague statement was made in an environment of an unpopular austerity and privatisation drive of public services.
Keen to impress Washington after Cameron’s embarrassing defeat on the same Syria vote two years ago, it is more than likely that the bombing campaign will be significantly stepped up to assist US Air Force logistical problems concerning the ever-depleting munitions stock.
Both George Osborne and David Cameron have confirmed that British bombing in Syria could well last for years. Yet the seven-month bombing campaign by Britain in Libya cost £390 million. Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) research director Malcolm Chalmers confirmed that in his view this campaign would be similar in cost to that of Libya.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament also said it is skeptical of the Chancellor’s claim.
The proposed bombing campaign in Syria is very similar to the bombing of Libya in 2011. In Libya the bombing operation was quickly extended to military personal being sent in to support rebels fighting Gaddafi on the ground. The bombing didn’t produce the results the government hoped for, so mission creep ensued. We know that operations in Libya cost up to £1.5 billion. I think we can expect similar mission creep in Syria, which will inevitably raise the costs involved.
Each 6-hour Tornado mission costs around £210,000, adding to that cost is the use of four Paveway bombs at £22,000 each and two Brimstone missiles at £105,000 each. If all weapons are fired on an average mission the cost of each Tornado mission is therefore £508,000.
Hours after the Parliamentary vote to bomb Syria last week, four of the eight RAF Tornado’s bombed at least seven targets. It is reasonable to assume that £4 million has been spent already, and that 15 percent of the ‘low tens of millions’ has been consumed in just three days – yet this campaign is to last years. Days after continual bombing missions, the government confirms that two more Tornado’s and six Typhoon Bombers are also on the way to the combat zone.
It is not possible to know how many missions the RAF will undertake over the coming months, but if sixteen bombers conduct just two raids each week for the next six months, the cost will well exceed £400 million to the British taxpayer. Over the course of years, the final sum could easily reach billions.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also admitted “airstrikes alone” will not destroy the group, hinting at a coming ground war.
Poll after poll seems to add to an overall picture that just under one third of the population backs bombing, a quarter are undecided and nearly one half against – and yet three quarters of MPs supported the motion, contrary to their constituents’ wishes.
In the months ahead it will become apparent just how much our involvement Britain’s fourth war in 14 years will cost. With each Tornado mission, 20 sacked police officers could be reinstated or 18 sacked firefighters could help to keep us alive at a time of emergency, especially as you are far more likely to need their services as a direct result of increased terrorism because of the bombing in Syria.
It should be noted that the share prices of major international arms traders jumped in the wake of the British parliament’s decision to extend its aerial bombing campaign against Islamic State.
Stock values at BAE Systems, Airbus, Finmeccanica and Thales all soared as trading began last Thursday morning. Share prices don’t jump like this unless well-informed investors have confidence that hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent in the months and years ahead as share prices only ever reflect future profitability. In contrast, the FTSE has fallen 12 percent since April this year.
MP’s have a vested interest in war. Their pensions depend on the stock performance of weapons manufacturers. Huge sums of money is heaped onto dozens of serving MP’s that are guests at lavish events hosted by organisations such as these. It only demonstrates political connections and lobbying at work while people die abroad on an industrial scale and are mistreated by austerity amid increasing poverty at home.
You can read more from Graham Vanbergen at his site TruePublica.org.uk