Authored by analysts Todd Harrison and Zack Cooper, the report was based
on the assessment that NATO would designate up to 500 targets in Libya, the
size of which is 680,000 square miles. The report said the average cost per
target could be $2 million "since many targets would require multiple cruise
missiles or bombs to destroy."
The report stressed that the establishment of a no-fly zone would be
more costly and difficult than in Iraq during the 1990s. The no-fly zones
maintained in northern and southern Iraq contained only 104,600 square
A more limited option was the establishment of a no-fly zone that
covered major cities as well as areas of Libyan Air Force operations,
estimated at including up to 400 targets. The center said this would cover
230,000 square miles and cost between $30 million and $100 million per week.
"But as in the case of the full no-fly zone option, establishing this
type of no-fly zone over hostile territory would require an upfront campaign
to degrade Libyan air defenses," the report, dated March 10, said. "Since
Libyan air defenses are concentrated along the coastal areas, an area that
would be covered by a limited no-fly zone, the number of targets would only
be slightly less than in the case of the full no-fly zone and might cost
between $400 million and $800 million."
A third option was identified as a partial no-fly zone that would employ
standoff systems to cover the coastal assets of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The
center said NATO could deploy three U.S. Navy Aegis-class cruisers, AIM-120
air-to-air missiles and airborne early-warning and control systems.
"Given the operating cost of these systems and related munitions, this
approach could cost in the range of $15 million to $25 million per week,"
the report said. "Importantly, since the aircraft involved would remain off
the coast of Libya and U.S. forces would use standoff missiles to intercept
aircraft violating the no-fly zone, strikes on Libyan air defenses may not
The center said NATO and the United States must first determine whether
a no-fly zone would serve Western interests and help oust Gadhafi. The
report said the Western alliance must decide which country would lead the
campaign, rules of engagement as well as direct aid to the Libyan rebels.
"Although the cost of each option is only one of many factors that
should influence the decision on going forward with a no-fly zone, in the
current fiscal environment considerations of cost are likely to play a
significant role in determining whether and how a no-fly zone is
established," the report said.