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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 14:25 GMT


Counting the cost of deployment

Expensive assets

The US has probably spent about $1.25bn on the latest military mobilisations in the Gulf, bringing the entire cost of this year's stand-offs with Iraq to around $3bn.


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And the biggest costs are not simply the build-up of forces - simply keeping ships at sea and hands on deck is nothing compared to the cost of launching planes and missiles.

Having a B-52 in the air is estimated to cost in the region of $12,000 per hour's flying time, according to Paul Beaver of Jane's Defence Publications.

"When you have a squadron of them departing towards Iraq and spending six hours in the air, you can start to see that the dollars just mount up like telephone numbers," said Mr Beaver.

Mission aborted

The huge sums of money incurred when such planes take off add up even if they do not complete their mission with a strike.

Once a plane is fitted with laser-guided bombs and takes off, it is not safe to land.

So if US and British planes were launched and turned around before reaching Iraqi flight space, some bombs would have been offloaded before the planes touched down back at base.

And each missile costs between $250,000 and $350,000.

Cost-cutting measures

In February, the US military found it cheaper to keep many units stationed in the Gulf rather than send them home - correctly pre-empting another stand-off in June.

Paul Beaver estimates that this time, it will prove cost-effective to keep most units stationed in the Gulf for three months.

"Cost is a factor which is very much in mind. The Pentagon has had to tighten its belt in the last few years," he said.

Over 150 bases in the US have been closed to reserve more money for global policing, but experts say it is unlikely that the US would fail to mobilise because of lack of funds.

Cost-benefit analysis is increasingly being adopted as a military strategy by mobilising powers.

"They will look at incidents and say is it really worth us being there? What are we going to achieve for that outlay?" says Mr Beaver.





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