The radar ‘golf ball’ de­ploys from Pearl af­ter North Korea’s mis­sile threat

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam Cole wcole@staradvertiser.com

The Sea-Based X-Band Radar has de­ployed out of Pearl Har­bor af­ter North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un re­cently said his coun­try was in the “fi­nal stages” of test-launch­ing an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile. Dis­patch­ing the “SBX” out to sea sends “a very clear strate­gic mes­sage of de­ter­rence to the ICBM threat of the North Korean leader that has in­ten­si­fied since first an­nounced on Jan. 1,” said Riki El­li­son, chair­man of the Mis­sile De­fense Ad­vo­cacy Al­liance, a Vir­ginia-based non­profit that ad­vo­cates a strong U.S. mis­sile de­fense.

Me­dia sources re­ported that the SBX was be­ing sent about 2,000 miles north­west of Hawaii to watch for a pos­si­ble North Korean launch in com­ing months. The Pen­tagon down­played the float­ing radar’s Mon­day de­par­ture.

“The SBX’s cur­rent de­ploy­ment is not based on any cred­i­ble threat; how­ever, we can­not dis­cuss specifics for this par­tic­u­lar mis­sion while it is un­der­way,” Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, a De­fense De­part­ment spokesman, said in an email.

Kim said in a Jan. 1 speech that North Korea was prepping for an ICBM test launch.

“The SBX de­ployed in the Pa­cific Ocean en­hances and boosts the prob­a­bil­ity of kill for each of the cur­rent 37 and soon to be 44 (ground­based in­ter­cep­tors) in both Alaska and Cal­i­for­nia, if fired at a North Korean ICBM,” El­li­son said Thurs­day in an MDAA re­lease.

If the North Korean test ICBM does not tar­get U.S. or al­lied ter­ri­tory, the SBX would be in a po­si­tion “to col­lect in­valu­able pre­ci­sion data on the war­head and de­bris of a North Korean ICBM test-fly­ing in space,” the re­lease said. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter also sug­gested this week that the United States might just mon­i­tor the launch if it didn’t ap­pear to be a threat. The more than 280-foot­tall SBX is topped by a golf ball-like dome con­tain­ing a phased ar­ray radar and is a hard-to-miss sight at

Me­dia sources re­ported that the SBX was be­ing sent about 2,000 miles north­west of Hawaii to watch for a pos­si­ble North Korean launch in com­ing months. The Pen­tagon down­played the float­ing radar’s Mon­day de­par­ture.

its moor­ing off Ford Is­land. The pow­er­ful radar, which is only op­er­ated at sea, ac­quires, tracks and dis­crim­i­nates the flight char­ac­ter­is­tics of bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Both the White House and State De­part­ment have said that North Korea hasn’t yet demon­strated the abil­ity to minia­tur­ize a nu­clear war­head and put it on an ICBM.

“But we do know that he (Kim) con­tin­ues to want to have those ca­pa­bil­i­ties” and that his pro­grams “con­tinue to march in that di­rec­tion,” State De­part­ment spokesman John Kirby said Jan. 3. South Korean me­dia pre­vi­ously re­ported that the SBX radar was de­ployed in late Septem­ber to an area off the Korean Penin­sula. Con­cerns

over North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram led to the de­ploy­ment of the SBX in 2009 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists.

The group said in a July re­port that the $2.2 bil­lion SBX is de­signed for lon­grange pre­ci­sion track­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion of war­heads from other ob­jects, but it “has a num­ber of se­ri­ous lim­i­ta­tions, in­clud­ing a very lim­ited elec­tronic field of view.”

Based on short­com­ings of the SBX, the U.S. Mis­sile De­fense Agency an­nounced plans to de­velop by 2020 a long-range dis­crim­i­na­tion radar in Alaska, the sci­en­tific group said. El­li­son said North Korea has tested six long-range

STAR-AD­VER­TISER / 2015

The Sea-Based X-Band Radar has de­ployed out of Pearl Har­bor af­ter North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un said in a speech Jan. 1 that North Korea was prepping for an ICBM test launch. The U.S. Mis­sile De­fense Agency’s gi­ant Sea-Based X-Band Radar is shown be­ing towed back to Pearl Har­bor one morn­ing. It passed a tanker moored off of Honolulu Har­bor.

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