Recently, a meme compiled by @ of IlmFeed has been shared around Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlining the “costs of bombing” and what this money could otherwise fund. This post shall examine and analyse the claims of this meme.
6 Hour Tornado Mission: This meme’s first claim is that a six-hour Tornado mission costs £210,000. According to the UK Parliament, Tornado GR4 missions cost taxpayers a whopping £35,000 per flight hour. So, at least the maths are correct in this case. The estimated flight hours of a single mission range anywhere from four to eight hours; the above meme assumes an average of six hours.
4 Paveway Bombs and 2 Brimstone Missiles: It is likely that some Tornado missions will involve both of these weapons. Paveway bombs are estimated to cost approximately £30,000 each, and Brimstone missiles are estimated at a costly £100,000 per missile. It may not be logical to assume that each Tornado will use all of its weaponry in each mission, however; the first two RAF Tornados to bomb Syrian territory after the UK vote reportedly used three Paveway bombs each.
Costs of Bombing: Overall, the meme does raise some excellent points about the costs of the UK military bombing Syria. However, it is difficult to say with any degree of accuracy the exact costs. The costs are sure to be high, though–we can estimate, even for the shortest of missions (4 hours) that use few bombs (2 Paveways, for example), the total cost would still be £200,000. And this is for a “best case” scenario in terms of costs, as it is likely that most missions will be longer in duration and use more of a Tornado’s payload.
Salaries of Publicly-Funded Professions: This meme’s point is dependent on the perspective of the viewer. If we consider using the costs of bombing to train new teachers/doctors/police officers, using salary alone is not sufficient in outlining costs (costs of training professional staff are extensive, reaching up to £250,000 for doctors). If, instead, we consider using the costs of bombing to instead retain professionals in key positions, then the analysis in the meme is likely much more reflective of reality.
Conclusion: Overall, the meme is a bit imprecise with the actual costs of bombing missions into Syria–however, as it is impossible to calculate the costs of future attacks, it is a good place to start. In comparing the costs of war to the costs of social benefits (e.g. police forces, medical services and education), this meme generates a worthwhile conversation about what we’re willing to pay for at home (in this case, the UK).
What is worth exploring further is the cost to societies, like Syria’s, which are victims of such bombings and how many nurses, police officers and teachers are killed by these strikes and the long-term impact this will have on the region.