Cost Disparity: Iran’s Attack Relatively Cheap Compared to Israel’s Defense

In a major escalation, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. Israel claims near-perfect defense with minimal damage, but the interception effort cost billions. Iran's attack, estimated at millions, highlights the vast cost difference between offense and defense in modern warfare.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

On April 13, the world witnessed the most extensive drone assaults and counter-drone operations in history. Iran risked a significant escalation when, late on Saturday, it launched a barrage of kamikaze drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory. As per the Israel Defense Forces, the Iranian assault consisted of 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles, of which air defenses intercepted 99 percent.

Iran fired dozens of ballistic missiles at Israel, causing minimal damage to a military base, according to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. According to him, the long-range Arrow air defense system stopped most missiles. He claims that most of the missiles were shot down outside of Israeli airspace.

Hagari states that one assault resulted in the injury of a young girl in the Negev and that additional impacts caused “slight infrastructure damage” at a military base in southern Israel. Medical personnel reported that the girl sustained projectile injuries after an interception.

Tehran attacked the Nevatim air base, which bases the F-35s and a military facility on Mount Hermon, according to a report by the state-run Iranian Students News Agency.

The unsigned column, which appears to reflect the party line of the regime regarding the attack, asserts that Nevatim was the target of a lethal assault on the country’s consulate in Damascus earlier this month, as claimed by Tehran.

Even though Israeli citizens endured the most traumatic night of their lives, the column states that Israeli cities were not intended to be the target of this operation. 

According to the Iranian IRNA news agency, the Israeli air base in the Negev desert was targeted by Iranian armed forces using Kheibar ballistic missiles.

Furthermore, the attack was a retaliatory response to the ongoing Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria, targeting a military intelligence facility atop Mount Hermon.

Additionally, fighter aircraft shot down dozens of cruise missiles and drones, according to him.

The Cost Factor

Considering the experience of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it came as no surprise that these subsonic drones and missiles were intercepted after a swarm of them traveled to Israel over hours long, nearly 2,000-kilometer distance. The Israeli military’s claim that it destroyed 99 percent of the projectiles (just three projectiles striking Israeli territory?) is untrue. Open sources indicate that at least seven missiles struck the Israeli airbase. If Israel was referring to mere drones being shot down in its 99% claim, even that appears exaggerated. Only two drones impacted Israeli soil? Israel claims that its air force shot down 25 drones, while the United States claims to have shot down 80 drones. The allies have not provided their numbers, and David Sling’s shootdown rate is also unclear.

Hageri reports that 25 out of 30 cruise missiles were intercepted, and only a limited number of the over 120 ballistic missiles managed to breach Israeli territory and make landfall at the Nevatim air base.

Israel’s nighttime interception of dozens of Iranian missiles and drones cost Tel Aviv up to $1.35 billion, according to Israeli media on April 14.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Brigadier General Ram Aminach, the former financial advisor to the Israeli chief of staff, saying that the cost of defense last night was projected to be between 4 and 5 billion shekels ($1.08 and $1.35 billion).

He said he was just discussing interception of what the Iranians launched, not minor casualties this time.

One ‘Arrow’ missile used to intercept an Iranian ballistic missile costs $3.5 million, and one ‘Magic Wand’ missile costs $1 million, in addition to the sorties of aircraft that engaged in intercepting the Iranian drones, he explained.

This figure excludes the amount spent by the United States and its allies intercepting these projectiles on behalf of Israel. 

As reported by the Israeli military, Iran had launched 170 drones. 

Leaked documents of uncertain origin indicate that the Russian military paid $1.75 billion in gold bullion to import 6000 Shahed 136 units in 2022. These documents also suggest that the anticipated cost per unit for near-complete Russian localization is $48,800. Based on these documents, Ukranian sources estimated the cost per unit of Shahed 136s to be $193,000 for a quantity of 6,000 drones and approximately $290,000 for 2,000 drones.

This cost includes technology transfer, production rights, and other costs. The cost of these drones is approximately USD 20,000 to USD 50,000. Iran spent just about USD 8.5 to 9 million on 170 drones. 

The unit cost of a Kheybar ballistic missile is approximately $300,000, as per open source. Using the average cost of $400,000 per launched missile, the expenditure for 150 missiles will amount to USD 60 million.

Thus, the launch of the missiles and drones will cost approximately $69 million in total. Even assuming the expense was nearly double, it is still possible to estimate the cost at approximately USD 200 million.

It appears that Iranian objectives were military targets. In anticipation of a high rate of shootdowns, many projectiles were fired to accomplish the intended goals. Although the terrifying moments endured by Israeli citizens are regrettable, they provide a glimpse into the suffering that Palestinian civilians must have endured for decades as Israeli aircraft flew over their heads. 


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