Special Report

The Number of Bombs Dropped by the US in Each of the Last 15 Years

Joel Carillet / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Modern warfare aims to leverage newer technologies to maximize harm to the enemy while reducing a country’s own casualties. Notwithstanding the current Russian invasion into Ukraine, in general today, technologically advanced countries take advantage of their superior weaponry to have fewer boots on the ground and fewer casualties overall. (See how Russia and Ukraine military spending compares to the world.)

For example, more than 7,000 U.S. service members have been killed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the Watson Institute at Brown University. By comparison, more than 58,000 U.S. troops died during the 20 years of the Vietnam War. In both cases, the U.S. and its allies lost far fewer soldiers than their enemies. (These are the wars in which the most Americans died.)

One of the recent advents in warfare has been the rise of effective precision bombs like the Hellfire missile the U.S. has used abundantly in its post-9/11 military engagements. 

To find the number of bombs dropped by U.S. aircraft each year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed unclassified data released by U.S. Air Force Central. According to the data, the U.S. lobbed 181,590 bombs at targets in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria from 2007 to 2021. These weapons were released from 58,511 sorties (by manned aircraft). 

The U.S. peaked its bombing runs in 2017, when 43,938 bombs were released from 11,192 sorties. Though bombing activity greatly diminished last year, with 1,370 bombs from 500 sorties, the average annualized number of U.S. bombs dropped in this 15-year period is 12,106.

Click here to see the number of weapons the US released every year since 2007
Click here to see our detailed methodology

Source: Gokhan Sahin / Getty Images

2007
> Number of bombs: 6,906
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 5,198
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 1,708
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 33,744
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 2,027
> President: George W. Bush

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Source: icholakov / iStock via Getty Images

2008
> Number of bombs: 6,290
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 5,215
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 1,075
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 38,781
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 2,333
> President: George W. Bush

Source: sasacvetkovic33 / Getty Images

2009
> Number of bombs: 4,289
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 4,163
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 126
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 35,876
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 1,794
> President: Barack Obama

Source: serkansenturk / Getty Images

2010
> Number of bombs: 5,109
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 5,101
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 8
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 39,995
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 1,820
> President: Barack Obama

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Source: Joel Carillet / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

2011
> Number of bombs: 5,411
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 5,411
> No. of bombs, Iraq/Syria, : 0
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 34,514
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 2,678
> President: Barack Obama

2012
> Number of bombs: 4,083
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 4,083
> No. of bombs, Iraq/Syria, : 0
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 28,760
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 1,975
> President: Barack Obama

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Source: Gokhan Sahin / Getty Images

2013
> Number of bombs: 2,758
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 2,758
> No. of bombs, Iraq/Syria, : 0
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 21,900
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 1,408
> President: Barack Obama

Source: TebNad / iStock via Getty Images

2014
> Number of bombs: 8,657
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 2,365
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 6,292
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 19,569
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 3,139
> President: Barack Obama

2015
> Number of bombs: 29,643
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 947
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 28,696
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 26,890
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 10,323
> President: Barack Obama

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Source: Claudiad / Getty Images

2016
> Number of bombs: 32,080
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 1,337
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 30,743
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 26,343
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 12,440
> President: Barack Obamaa

Source: Joel Carillet / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

2017
> Number of bombs: 43,938
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 4,361
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 39,577
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 24,283
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 11,192
> President: Donald Trump

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Source: Joel Carillet / E+ via Getty Images

2018
> Number of bombs: 16,075
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 7,362
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 8,713
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 24,252
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 2,557
> President: Donald Trump

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2019
> Number of bombs: 12,152
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 7,423
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 4,729
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 22,467
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 3,410
> President: Donald Trump

Source: icholakov / iStock via Getty Images

2020
> Number of bombs: 2,819
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 1,631
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 1,188
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 15,970
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 915
> President: Donald Trump

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Source: christophe_cerisier / E+ via Getty Images

2021
> Number of bombs: 1,370
> No. of bombs, Afghanistan: 801
> No. of bombs, Iraq & Syria: 569
> No. of sorties, Afghanistan & Iraq: 10,072
> No. of sorties with weapons, Afghanistan & Iraq: 500
> President: Joe Biden

Methodology

To find the number of bombs dropped by U.S. aircraft each year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed unclassified data released by U.S. Air Force Central. Included are weapons releases in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria only, as well as sorties (by manned aircraft) with and without weapons releases. 

Operations in Afghanistan included Operation Enduring Freedom/International Security Assistance Force (2001-2014), Operation Freedom’s Sentinel/Resolute Support Mission (2015-2021). Operations in Iraq and or Syria included Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011), Operation New Dawn (20010-2011), Operation Inherent Resolve (2014-present).

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