The UK has spent £1.75bn on armed air missions against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since August 2014.

Information from responses to Freedom of Information requests were looked over by Drone Wars UK.

The full cost of flying the UK’s armed aircraft (Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper) for more than 42,000 hours is almost £1.5 billion.

The site also reports that, the data shows £268 million in weapons have been fired over the last 3½ years. The full cost of flying the UK’s armed aircraft (Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper) for more than 42,000 hours is almost £1.5 billion.

Image via DroneWarsUK
Image via DroneWarsUK

RAF aircraft have carried out over 1,700 strikes against Islamic State since 2014.

RAF aircraft flew on operations against Islamic State every day over the Christmas period, striking terrorist compounds, trucks, mortars and pockets of fighters engaged in close quarter, street fighting with Syrian Democratic Forces. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The dangers we face are changing and are intensifying rapidly. Eliminating the threat from terrorism is critical to our security at home and abroad. Our brave Armed Forces are working tirelessly, day and night, to defeat Daesh after helping to recover significant territory in Iraq. Only by defeating this evil and barbaric group for good will we reduce the deadly threat they pose to us, which is why we won’t stop until their global network is destroyed.”

Fast jets flying out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and remotely piloted Reaper aircraft continue to provide support to the SDF on the ground who are clearing the last remaining pockets of terrorists in Eastern Syria say the MoD.

The MoD also say that Defence Secretary Williamson recently visited UK troops stationed in Taji who, along with over 600 British soldiers on the ground in Iraq, are helping to train that country’s forces. UK troops have so far helped train around 60,000 Iraqi Security Forces in counter-IED, engineering and combat medical skills.

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Anyone know the reason why Typhoon is twice the price of Tornado?


My question too, especially when half the crew members!


I suspect most of it is fuel burn

Douglas Newell

Does that cost also include a figure to take into account that hour’s share of the aircraft purchasing and R&D?? That would explain the stark difference.


Pretty sure it does, the costs of upgrades, refits (like T1 to FGR3), maintenance, software, adaptation of weapon systems for the likes of Storm Shadow , and the limited life of the hulls, all aggregated divided by remaining hull life. It’s a reason some are put into storage, to preserve their life to the full lifetime of the whole Typhoon fleet. An example of a recent weapon upgrade which would now be included presumably in cost is here: Makes you wonder if it might not have been better acknowledging Tornado’s role in ground attack, extending its lifetime way back… Read more »


Typo FGR4 not 3.

John H.

It is due to sloopy analysis and duplicity by the MOD. The £80k / hour was the figure quoted in 2011 in a Commons reply. It included developement and purchase costs that was spread over a smaller number of units delivered at that time. This contrasts with the Tornado’s 1970/80’s development costs and depreciation write offs. The whole cost is basically a smoke and mirror exercise.

Tim sinnett

If ever there was a case to invest heavily in uavs and drones, it’s there in black and white, 1/10 if the cost of tornado and more hours flown.
Taranis please and make it snappy!

Ben P

I know right. It also brings in to question the cost of flying the F35 instead of the Tornado. Will it massively bump up operating costs?


I doubt Taranis will be as cheap to run as Reaper. It uses the Adour engine from the Hawk which probably puts its all up weight at half a Tornado and double a Reaper but with a wing that’s optimised more for speed than long range loitering. Still a substantial saving though.


The cost of Brimstone also looks very competitive. Almost 50% cheaper than a hellfire for significantly greater capability and not that much more expensive than a paveway IV.


Brimstone is an expensive way to deal with snipers or light vehicles. Martlet would probably be a lot cheaper if it was fitted to Reaper.


I’m intrigued at how Brimstone is cheaper than Hellfire. Not only that, but Brimstone which is based on the Hellfire is supposed to be the better weapon .
Any answers?


US prices?


Couldn’t agree more Tim I am a massive advocate of a large Taranis/Magma fleet that is controlled from a standoff position by an F35 with all its elctronic excellence. If the F35 really is as good as they say then 1 could potentially control 4 taranis/magma and de-risk the deep penetration strike totally. I also think we could prove this and then sell to other F35 partner nations (a bit like the Konsgerg with the JSM) and keep the BAE carton site going for a few years. Lastly, this would actually help in keeping the numbers of F35s down, or… Read more »

Tim sinnett

Absolutely, could be a fantastic export opportunity. I would love to see us heavily invest in industries where we have the know how and start to make stuff again. Let’s take a lead in some key stuff again!

Tim sinnett

However, we have already handed all our r&d to France who can now make an equal competitor and will probably sell more than us.

Ben P

F35 will never replace Typhoon. Air superiority fighter vs fighter-bomber.


Perhaps in the name of goodwill and fairness we could send a portion of the bill to Germany..

Mr J Bell

AV you read my mind. We spend £1.75 billion of tax payers money fighting ISIS whilst our EU allies do what exactly. Do they even say thanks or offer to pay for a share of the costs. No they don’t Then Germany, the very same nation whose leader is scorning us for a democratic vote what’s deeper security ties. Perhaps something to do with 3/4 of their military hardware not being in an operable condition. Defence is expensive. Time the EU put some money into it. I am glad the RAF has spent that much money they should be proud.… Read more »


I remember when Shader started, the cynics weee saying what a waste of time, out contribution will be a drop in the ocean. Recent stats say we’ve flown the most sorties after the yanks and dropped the most ordnance, more than the French. Suddenly we’re not bit players anymore. The quiet efficiency of the RAF


Bearing in mind along with the US we created this mess and then allowed the conditions for ISIS to develop asking the Germans and EU to pay for its clearing up is a taking the pi–. You all seem to have very short memories. Our military people are brave and do a great job but being proud of spending £1.75Bn on bombing lunatics back to the middle ages is beyond me and I’m sure many others.

Mr J Bell

Just read the article in more detail.
Agree the cost difference between manned Vs unmanned combat aircraft is startling.
Only £3500 per flight hour for Reaper Vs £35000 for typhoon.
Let’s get lots more UAVs Taranis, reaper the costs of purchasing them is rapidly made up by huge reductions in operational costs.
I would like to see the RAF get hundreds of Taranis and reapers.


There seems to be a clear market for a larger drone carrying a similar weapons load to a tornado. It would have the advantage of not carrying a pilot and defenses, flying slower to allow longer loiter time and lower costs.

Daniele Mandelli

Does the treasury pick up the cost of operations? It must not cone from mod budget.


It’s from a contingency fund mainly outside usual MOD budgets


This doesn’t include the cost of AAR aircraft, nor the cost of repairing all the damage we have done, nor the wear and tear on airframe life. But at least the RAF have proved to ministers that they need this extra £1.7bn every 3 years and that pointy fast shiny jets with expensive bombs are more important than Escort Ships or Royal Marines or CAMMs on our QEs.

Given that most of the targets were in armoured or even soft targets this whole operation would have been about £1.4bn cheaper if we had exclusively used Reaper and LMM.


Apologies I should have broswed down to your post before making similar point above.
Are you aware of any plans to fit LMM to Reaper?


For reference back to 2012: “According to a parliamentary reply by Peter Luff dated 14 September 2010, the cost per flight hour of operating the Tornado GR4 was £35,000, the Harrier GR9 £37,000 and the Typhoon FGR4 £70,000.”

Pretty sure these are all in full lifetime costs based on airframe life, as I vaguely remember another report putting the figure at £30,000 per hour for fuel for the Typhoon, a figure I believe the Treasury picks up for operations + the figure for munitions used on any op. But it is just memory from 4 years back.

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How much??? What a disgraceful waste of money when our hospitals are struggling, prices going up everywhere, roads falling apart, never see the reassuring presence of a bobby on the beat, homeless people begging in the streets and so on. This country has lost its way. Why oh why are we paying to bomb Syria and Iraq? What the hell did this ever achieve? Where were the WMDs in Iraq? This country must stop this utter madness!!!!!!!!


We’re not bombing Syria and Iraq, we’re bombing evil people who will harm many innocent people both there and in the UK. Our privileged life style comes at a price, it’s not for free

Ben P

You should pay more attention to the news. You know those guys, ISIS, the ones that conducted several terrorist attacks in the UK last year, as well as overrunning most of Iraq and Syria? Those are the ones we are bombing. Which has contributed to them been almost annihilated.

Leigh dawes

Oh dear, either a troll or one of those lovely people who only can never be bothered to read the large worded headlines, and doesn’t feel the need for any grown up subject matter knowledge.

Daniele Mandelli

Crucifixions, especially of Christians.
Throwing gays off rooftops.
Burning alive downed airmen.

And lefties like you are delighted to let them continue and actually then welcome them here with open arms, with council house and benefits thrown it, then scratch your heads when the bombs go off…

GOD you pacifists are a strange bunch. A bully understands one thing. A bigger bully.


The non stop and over used argument about taking funds from the International Aid budget to pay for other things is stretched further and further, but in the above “international action” the argument does have some merit.

Ben P

International aid in the form of brimstone missiles. I like it. Maybe they can use the budget for a special stockpile only to be given away over seas, via a Tornado.

Mr J Bell

Tim This operation proves nothing of the kind. Yes in Syria for an aerial bombardment campaign fast high performance jets and unmanned aircraft vehicles were the weapons delivery systems for that campaign. This is why you need a balanced military with capabilities in all areas. These air assets would not be massively useful in securing our sea lanes against a concerted submarine campaign or for fighting off the little green men incursion into the Baltic states. Then you would need OTT warships, armoured vehicles and infantry respectively. Summary: balanced military best option, do not believe RAF hyperbole that you can… Read more »


I guess the main problem is the UAV’s have very limited payloads and also very limited weapon choice.

It seems the Paveway was by and far the most used weapon, which neither the reaper or taranis can carry.

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