STAR-BULLETIN / JANUARY 2006
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar, shown here sailing into Pearl Harbor aboard the MV Blue Marlin, left yesterday following the completion of repairs.
A missile defense radar that dominated the Pearl Harbor landscape leaves for Alaska
The U.S. military's most powerful missile defense radar set sail from Pearl Harbor yesterday for its new base in Alaska.
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar, which stands about as tall as a 28-story building when mounted on a converted oil platform, stopped in Hawaii in January for repairs and maintenance on its way to Alaska from the mainland.
The radar generated a buzz among Oahu residents who could see its white, spherical shape docked at Pearl Harbor from miles away.
It is able to sail on the ocean because it is mounted on a self-propelled semisubmersible platform. This gives the military the flexibility to dispatch the radar to any site at sea where it feels it needs to monitor missile threats.
The $815 million apparatus is part of a nascent network of missile defense technology Washington is rolling out in the Pacific Rim to protect the United States and its allies from a missile attack from North Korea or other belligerents.
Analysts say Pyongyang's ballistic missiles are capable of hitting Hawaii, Alaska and perhaps portions of the U.S. West Coast. There are also able to hit all of Japan.
The Missile Defense Agency has installed interceptor missiles on U.S. Pacific Fleet ships and in underground silos in Alaska and California. It has further equipped Navy vessels with advanced missile tracking systems.
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar is so powerful it can identify baseball-size objects from thousands of miles away. It is also designed to tell the difference between decoys and real missile warheads.
Defense contractors Boeing and Raytheon assembled the radar in Texas. It reached Hawaii after rounding South America because it was too large to fit through the Panama Canal.
In Alaska it will float just off the town of Adak, a former naval station about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. A regional firm, Aleut Corp., is redeveloping the area into a residential community and fishing port.
Anchorage-based Aleut successfully bid to have the radar stationed at Adak, beating out Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as well as companies in Everett, Wash., and Honolulu.