The economics of bombs

As the bombs get more difficult to construct or operate, the costs rise. Bombs activated with a remote detonator like a cellphone cost a mere $345 and accounted for a surprisingly small — 12.6 percent — of attacks, perhaps owing to the U.S.’ hard-won ability to jam the detonator signal. (One would imagine the major cost component is the cellphone.) For insurgents to turn a car into a bomb or convince someone to kill himself during a detonation — or both — the cost shoots up into the thousands: $10,032 for a suicide bomber; $15,320 for a car bomb; nearly 19 grand to drive a car bomb. All together, those relatively expensive attack methods accounted for fewer than six percent of bomb attacks in 2009.

Most of those bombs have gotten cheaper to produce. In 2006, victim-operated IEDs cost an average of $1,125. Command-wire bombs were $1,266. Remote detonation bombs? The same. And as the costs dropped, victim-operated and command-wire detonated bombs skyrocketed. Back in 2006, they accounted for merely 21.3 percent and a piddling 1.9 percent of all bomb attacks, respectively.

But the sophisticated bombs have gotten more expensive. Car bombs cost $1,675 on average in 2006 — which seems absurdly low, given the cost of one involves acquiring and then tricking out a car. And the going rate on suicide bombers appears to have risen, from $5,966 in 2006 to nearly double that in 2009. Accordingly, both accounted for over 16 percent of IED attacks in ‘06. And JIEDDO says it has preliminary reporting indicating that suicide bombers cost $30,000 as of January.

Here is more and for the pointer I thank David Curran.


Comments for this post are closed