Special Report

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

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

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