Research suggests defence bill may be seven times government estimate, prompting calls for full spending breakdown
Libya’s conflict had led to 1,600 missions by UK combat aircraft such as this RAF Tornado. Photograph: Giampiero Sposito/REUTERS
The true cost of the UK’s involvement in the Libya conflict could be as high as £1.75bn – almost seven times as much as government estimates, according to a new study.
Research by a respected defence analyst suggests that the government has given a misleading picture of the costs of supporting the military operation, now in its seventh month, leading to demands for a proper spending breakdown.
RAF airstrikes against forces remaining loyal to him have continued at an exceptionally high rate, depleting stockpiles of expensive precision weapons the Ministry of Defence will want to replace. That will add to the overall bill, which is still rising and which the Treasury has promised to meet from its special reserves.
Concern over funding for the operation has been mounting as government departments, including the MoD, have to cope with deep spending cuts because of the fragility of the economy.
Using one method, he estimated the cumulative cost of the operation to the end of August at between £1.38bn and £1.58bn.
Using a second method, the costs were potentially even higher – between £850m and £1.75bn.
In June, the government said the overall costs of the Libya campaign were in the region of £260m. An earlier estimate by the chancellor, George Osborne, put the operation in the “tens of millions.”
Tusa did not include the cost of the most recent sorties, which have included several RAF Tornados flying on numerous occasions from the UK to Libya, or the “start-up” costs that were incurred when, in the early weeks of the mission, the MoD hired fleets of Eddie Stobart trucks and trailers to take equipment from here to the military base in Gioia del Colle, Italy.