No-Fly Zone Price Tag: $1B
How much allies will absorb remains to be seen
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Mar 23, 2011 1:41 AM CDT
The F-15 jet fighter, which crashed Monday night in Libya's rebel held east, prepares to take off from the tarmac at the NATO airbase in Aviano, Italy, Monday, March 21, 2011. The jet crashed in Libya's...   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Just when it seemed the US couldn't afford to spend another penny on anything come estimates that the price of enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya could hit $1 billion within weeks. Coalition forces spent some $112 million in the first hour of the air assault, based on missile prices alone, estimated one expert. Continuing to patrol the no-fly zone is expected to cost up to $100 million a week, according to a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The portion of the costs absorbed by the US is still unclear.

Though America has launched more than half of the bomber missions and fired more than half of the Tomahawk missiles, allies appear to be picking up a more significant chunk of the cost than usual, according to observers. "Even though the US has picked up more than a majority of the cost, so far, it probably hasn't picked up as much as we estimated," analyst Zach Cooper tells Reuters. The costs come as Congress struggles to deal with a $1.48 trillion budget deficit; the Pentagon has planned $78 billion in defense spending cuts over the next five years.