Feeds

US missile defence radar hits stormy seas

$815m behemoth flounders

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The Sea-Based X-Band Radar. Photo: BoeingThe future of the US's much-hyped, $815m Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) platform is in serious doubt after a raft of sceptics expressed doubts that the sea monster could ever effectively operate in its intended final mooring off Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

The SBX - designed to detect incoming ICBMs - is currently wallowing in Hawaii after repairs necessitated by a light battering it received during its first ocean voyage from the Gulf of Mexico, Defencetech reports. Its eventual home is described by the Chicago Tribune as "unforgiving [stretch] of the Bering Sea where winter weather can be so violent that the islands have been nicknamed 'the birthplace of winds'."

And that's where SBX might come seriously unstuck. Philip Coyle, assistant secretary of defense from 1994 to 2001 in the Clinton administration, commented: "That radar is absolutely packed with sensitive electronics, and...salt water, wind and waves don't go well with sensitive electronics.

"The bottom line is that the designers of this system didn't begin to contemplate the realistic conditions under which the X-Band would have to operate. When you look at all the facts, you really have to wonder what the people who designed this thing were thinking..."

The Chicago Tribune specifies some of the platform's shortcomings, as contained in an independent assessment:

  • The sensitive radar...is mounted atop a vessel that might need to be towed to safety in the event of rugged Alaskan seas, but its one towing bridle likely would be underwater and impossible for a rescue ship to use anytime waves reached more than eight feet.
  • Although the SBX may be hundreds of miles away from support ships, it lacks a quickly deployable rescue boat in the event of a man overboard, does not have a helicopter landing pad certified for landing the most common US Coast Guard and Navy rescue helicopters, and its crews have not been trained "for heavy weather or cold-weather operations".
  • And, ironically, the X-Band, considered one of the nation's foremost technologies in defending against foreign missiles, has minimal security itself. Many critics speculate that it is vulnerable to attack by enemy nations or terrorist groups.

The SBX was due to take part in the US Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) current "full-scale test of the fledgling US ballistic missile defense system", as The New York Times puts it, but rather missed the boat since it's unlikely to set sail "at least later this fall".

Victoria Samson, of the Centre for Defense Information, put the boot in with: "This is no surprise and again demonstrates MDA's stubborn refusal to accept that engineering and logistical limitations can be just as damning as anything else the weapon systems can come up against." ®

Background info

GlobalSecurity describes the SBX thus: "Sea-Based X-band (SBX) Radar is the tracking and discrimination radar used for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. SBX will consist of a large X-Band half-populated radar mounted on a modified fifth-generation semi-submersible platform with Battle Management Command Control and Communications, which will include In-flight Interceptor Communication System Data Terminals and associated communications; power generation; facility floor space; and infrastructure, similar to a fixed radar installation.

"The platform will be approximately 390 feet long, with a 238-foot beam, and an operations draft of approximately 75 feet. The height from water surface to the top of the radar dome will be 250 feet. The deck area will be approximately 270 x 230 feet. The SBX has a displacement of 50,000 tons."

More here.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?