Russian air strikes in Syria are costing up to $4 million per day, according to data collected by a defense think tank for the Moscow Times newspaper.
Data collected by IHS Jane's, a renowned intelligence provider for the defense industry and governments, showed that bombing raids, supply runs, infrastructure and ground personnel — along with a salvo of cruise missiles fired into the conflict zone — have cost Russia between $80 million and $115 million since strikes began on September 30.
Compared to Russia's 3.1 trillion ruble ($50 billion) defense budget for 2015, the figure appears low but the Kremlin could see its costs and commitments grow, the Moscow Times reported.
Russia is currently struggling economically on the back of international sanctions placed on the country for its annexation of Crimea in 2013 and role in the pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine last year.
Sanctions provoked investor caution over Russia which saw capital outflows and a fall in the ruble's value as a result. That, coupled with the sharp decline in oil prices, has contributed to Russia's parlous economic situation, yet, still it has willingly embarked on what could be a costly enterprise in Syria.
Ostensibly involving itself in the civil war in the Middle Eastern nation in order to help an alliance of western powers trying to combat the terrorist group that calls itself "Islamic State," many believe that Russia's real aim is to prop up the regime of controversial Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and to prevent more western influence in the region.
Russia reported on Wednesday that Assad had flown to Moscow on Tuesday evening to thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support but it was not said whether Assad had returned home.
Russia's intervention has certainly been welcomed by Assad. The country already has a naval base in Syria and has been granted use of an airbase, allowing it to employ ships, aircraft and military personnel on the ground in combat. In fact, Putin has made much of the fact that Russia was invited to intervene whereas the west was acting without any U.N. Security Council resolution.
More than 50 Russian warplanes and helicopters are conducting airstrikes on the positions of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria, Russia's Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has said, according to Russia's TASS news agency.
Although precise data is hard to come by, IHS Jane's said each warplane costs $12,000 per hour to fly and each helicopter costs $3,000 per hour.
With the tempo of bombing runs keeping the planes in the sky for 90 minutes a day on average and choppers flying one hour per day, Moscow is spending around $710,000 every 24 hours, IHS said. Each day, they drop around $750,000 worth of munitions.
In terms of personnel, they cost around $440,000 per day to support, IHS estimated. Keeping the ships in the Mediterranean requires a further $200,000. Other supporting costs, such as logistics, intelligence gathering, communications and engineering, add $250,000 per day. That means the minimum cost of keeping this operation going is $2.4 million per day.