Floating missile radar rig visits en route to Alaska
It costs more than $900 million and looms more than 28 stories over the ocean -- about 10 stories taller than Aloha Tower.
Longer than a football field, the Sea-Based X-Band Radar is a high-tech, fifth-generation semisubmersible oil-drilling platform that is self-propelled and can be positioned any place in the world.
Designed to be integrated into the military's Ballistic Missile Defense System, the radar platform is so sensitive that it can detect objects more than a continent away.
For the next few weeks, the Missile Defense Agency's Sea-Based X-Band Radar will be berthed at Pearl Harbor undergoing refurbishment and even getting a new paint job.
As motor vessel Blue Marlin transported the 50,000-ton radar platform into Pearl Harbor yesterday, one spectator on Ford Island commented that its radar dome reminded him of the Marshmallow Man from the movie "Ghostbusters."
SEA-BASED X-BAND RADAR AT PEARL HARBOR
The high-tech facility is a combination of an advanced X-band radar and an oceangoing submersible platform:
Cost: $900 million
Craft: Twin-hulled and self-propelled
Length: 380 feet
Height: 280 feet from keel to top of radar dome
Crew: 75 members
Range: Classified (said to be able to detect an object the size of a baseball a continent away)
Source: Missile Defense Agency
It will be at Pearl Harbor's Bravo Pier for repairs before departing for Adak in the Aleutian Islands later this spring under its own power.
Although much of what the mobile radar platform can do is classified, Pam Rogers, spokeswoman for the Missile Defense System in Huntsville, Ala., said its radar system is so sensitive that "if a baseball was launched on the West Coast, it could be detected on the East Coast by this radar."
Despite being home-ported in Alaska, the Navy said the sea-based radar will be capable of moving throughout the Pacific Ocean to support both advanced missile defense testing and operations to defend against ballistic missiles.
Pearl Harbor was one of six locations considered for the sea-based radar, Rogers said. However, on Aug. 15, 2003, the Missile Defense Agency decided on Adak.
The radar was manufactured in Corpus Christi and Brownsville, and left Texas on Nov. 14 for the 15,000-mile voyage to Hawaii. It was too large to fit in the Panama Canal and had to be transported around South America. It will be manned by 75 crew members.
Sea trials were conducted in the Gulf of Mexico for 52 days, and Rogers said the platform is "stable in high winds and turbulent sea conditions."
Its main deck houses living quarters, workspaces, storage, power generators, a bridge and control room.
The Blue Marlin is designed to carry very large semisubmersible drilling rigs, which can weigh 30,000 tons and have a center of gravity around 100 feet above the transport ship's deck.
Six years ago the Navy hired the Blue Marlin, owned by Dockwise Shipping of the Netherlands, to transport the destroyer USS Cole after it was crippled by terrorist bombs in Aden, Yemen.
The sea-based radar uses high-frequency and advanced radar signal processing technology to improve target resolution, permitting the radar to perform effectively against closely spaced warheads, debris and decoys.
Located off the coast of Alaska, the sea-based radar will be linked to up to 10 ground-based interceptors and will be part of Missile Defense Agency's initial test bed facility.
Boeing International Defense Systems is the prime contractor, and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems is responsible for development and manufacturing of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar installed on the platform.