ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Intervention en Libye: combien ça coûte?
Translated Saturday 26 March 2011, by Bill Scobleand reviewed by
On the fourth day of the operation, France sets out some figures.
With 55 missions, the French Rafales and Mirage 2000s toted up over 400 flight hours in the course of the missions over Libya. According to an aeronautical source, the cost of keeping a Rafale in the air for an hour is 10,000 to 13,000 euros, not counting fuel. For a Mirage 2000, it is 10,000 to 11,000 euros an hour. The missions lead, of course, to an additional fuel cost.
So far, the planes have been taking off from French bases, a six-hour round trip flight to Libya. But the cost of the missions should be reduced somewhat with the arrival of the aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” in the zone on March 22. The French general staff emphasizes that the fighter planes engaged in the missions are usually flying training missions, and the ships are generally at sea. The combat missions constitute, in fact, “a sort of training plus.”
The operations in Libya are mainly mobilizing high-tech materiel and do not have the financial consequences of a massive ground deployment, like the one in Afghanistan where France presently has 4,000 soldiers. “In logistical terms, this is not overly big, compared with our capacities,” noted Eric Denécé of the French Center for Research into Intelligence (CF2R). “Libya is a reasonable distance from French bases and the operation, up to now, has been exclusively an air operation.”
“The extra cost, what really costs a lot, is the bombs, everything that we drop. The cost is mainly in the munitions, because they have to be replaced afterwards,” he emphasized. According to the general staff, the French aircraft have notably used U.S. laser-guided GBU12 bombs and medium-range AASM missiles. These “air to ground modular arms” missiles manufactured by Safran-Sagem cost, according to the specialists, 300,000 to 350,000 euros each, but are often discounted to 250,000 euros, which nonetheless is much less than the 450,000-euro price tag of U.S. Tomahawk missiles
Defense budget falling, overseas operations budget rising
The final cost will depend on the duration of the operation, but this new engagement will inflate the defense budgets, notably in France and the United Kingdom, which have been subject to cost-cutting. During the October budget debate, the head of staff of the French Air Force, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, spoke to the legislators of a very unfavorable economic situation for combat aviation. The only consolation is that the means dedicated to foreign operations (OPEX) – which are partly financed outside the defense budget – rose in the 2011 budget, at nearly 900 million euros.