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US taxpayers paid millions of dollars for the airstrikes on Syria. Here's a breakdown of key costs

CNBC logo CNBC 4/16/2018 Amanda Macias


The U.S. strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities was colossal over the weekend cost taxpayers a lot of money, although the total bill isn't clear.

To start, U.S. forces fired 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles on three Syrian targets early morning local time, making for a price tag of $92.4 million for those missiles alone.

With an estimated cost of $1.4 million each, Raytheon's Tomahawk missile has an intermediate range of 800 to 1,553 miles and can be deployed from more than 140 U.S. Navy ships and submarines. What also makes the Tomahawk exceptionally lethal is its capability to carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead which can be reprogrammed midflight.

Friday night Eastern time, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to conduct missile strikes, along with French and U.K. forces, against the Syrian government. The use of Tomahawk missiles came as no surprise.

It's the weapon that "presidents reach for first in a crisis" according to missile defense expert Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Tomahawks have been deployed more than 2,300 times since joining the U.S. Navy's arsenal in the 1980s.

The Tomahawk is half the length of a standard telephone pole, travels at the cruising speed of a commercial airliner, and can carry a 1,000-pound warhead the distance from New York City to Kansas City.

Lockheed Martin (LMT)'s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles Extended Range, or JASSM-ER, a stealthy long-range air-to-ground missile, made its combat debut in the Syrian strikes.

The missile can strike more than 500 miles away and has an estimated cost of $1.4 million each, according to a GAO report. In which case, the price point for the 19 missiles the U.S. fired on Syria is $26.6 million.

In addition, the U.S. Air Force deployed a pair of B-1B Lancers, one of the world's most technologically advanced strategic bombers. The aircraft is believed to have an operating cost of approximately $70,000 per flight hour. It is unclear how long the Lancers flew and from where they were deployed.

The Pentagon and U.S. Air Force did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for clarity on the extent of the B-1B's role.

The mission also involved aerial refueling tankers, surveillance aircraft, and U.S. fighter jets that were tasked with escorting the bombers to their targets. And while the cost and types of the additional aircraft involved are unknown, the total number of Tomahawks and JASSM-ERs cost $119 million. 

Bombers, missiles and ships

Compared to last year's strike, the hour-long bombing campaign on Friday was "double the size" with a total of 105 weapons sent upon Syrian chemical facilities at nearly the same time.

Last year, the Trump administration lobbed a total of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Saturday, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie described the strikes on the three targets as "precise, overwhelming and effective."

"We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets. At the end of the strike mission, all our aircraft safely returned to their bases," McKenzie said.

The latest strike — carried out in conjunction with French and British allies — dispatched a slew of air and naval military assets to the region.

a close up of a map© Provided by CNBC

The coordinated efforts, which were spurred in response to a chemical attack carried out by the Syrian regime, were launched from widely dispersed combat aircraft, submarines, and ships.

Here's a roundup of the U.S., British, and French combat assets deployed in the unnamed operation:

  • USS John Warner, a U.S. Virginia-class submarine, fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles from its position in the Mediterranean Sea
  • USS Monterey, a U.S. Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles from its position in the Red Sea
  • USS Laboon, a U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, also launched another seven Tomahawks from its position in the Red Sea
  • USS Higgins, another Arleigh Burke destroyer, sent an additional 23 Tomahawks from the North Arabian Gulf
  • French frigate Languedoc launched three naval versions of a SCALP missile, a long-range deep strike weapon, from its position in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea
  • Two U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by U.S. fighter jets launched 19 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM)
  • British Typhoon and Tornado aircraft launched 8 2,900 pound Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 300 miles
  • French Rafales and Mirages shot nine SCALP missiles


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