Washington: The cost of possible military strikes against Syria would not be "extraordinary," the US Navy chief said on Thursday, downplaying the potential price tag of the operation.
Admiral Jonathan Greenert`s comments appeared to confirm a rough estimate from Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel yesterday, who told lawmakers the punitive strikes would likely cost "tens of millions" of dollars.
Naval ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles are expected to play the primary role in punitive strikes proposed by President Barack Obama, who has asked Congress to back intervention to punish Damascus over the alleged use of chemical weapons.
In outlining the funds required, Greenert said that a single Tomahawk missile costs USD 1.5 million and that keeping some ships in the area would costs millions more.
"The numbers are nagging but they`re not extraordinary at this point," Greenert said at an event organised by the American Enterprise Institute think tank.
The Navy currently has four destroyers in the Mediterranean ready if called upon as well as the aircraft carrier Nimitz and accompanying warships in the Red Sea.
"Many of these ships were going to be out there anyway," Greenert said.
"In the case of the Nimitz, she was to be headed home," he said. "So if we extend her much beyond say a week or so, she starts going in that theatre longer than what we had planned."
He said a carrier strike group costs up to USD 40 million a week if its aircraft are engaged in special combat-related flights, as opposed to routine operations that cost USD 25 million a week.
It was the first time a senior US military officer had openly acknowledged the Obama administration was considering using Tomahawk missiles in a strike against Syria, though officials had privately leaked that possibility previously.
The ships deployed in the region "are fully ready for a vast spectrum of operations, including operations that they may be asked to do, from launching Tomahawk missiles to protecting . . . The ships themselves," he said.
The admiral described Tomahawks as an effective weapon that provided "a really good option" for commanders.
At a House hearing yesterday, lawmakers asked the defense secretary about the possible cost of military action.
"It would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range," Hagel said.