Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX)
The Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) Radar is a unique combination of an advanced X-band radar with a mobile, ocean-based, semi-submersible platform that provides the Ballistic Missile Defense System with an extremely powerful and capable radar that can be positioned to cover any part of the globe.
Generally speaking the size of two football fields, the vessel is based on a fifth-generation semi-submersible oil drilling platform. It is twin-hulled, self-propelled, and stable in high winds and turbulent sea conditions.
Its ocean-spanning mobility allows the radar to be repositioned as needed to support the various test scenarios envisioned for the Ballistic Missile Defense System or to provide an advanced radar capability to obtain missile tracking information while an incoming threat missile is in flight, discriminate between the hostile missile warhead and any decoys, and provide that data to interceptor missiles so that they can successfully intercept and destroy the threat missile before it can reach its target.
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar is 240 feet wide and 390 feet long. Its height is more than 280 feet from its keel to the top of the radar dome and the weight is nearly 50,000 tons.
Larger than a football field, the main deck houses living quarters, work spaces, storage, power generation, bridge, and control rooms while providing the floor space and infrastructure necessary to support the radar antenna array, command control and communications suites, and an In-flight Interceptor Communication System Data Terminal which provides missile tracking and target discrimination data to interceptor missiles.
Construction of the vessel and integration of the payloads were completed in two Texas shipyards and extensive sea-trials were conducted in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar was home-ported at Adak, Alaska. SBX Radar can move throughout the world’s oceans as needed to support both testing and defensive operations for the Ballistic Missile Defense System. As a response to the North Korean threat to launch a long-range missile against Hawaii, SBX Radar was restationed to the islands in June 2009.
During the GMD flight test FTG-06 in January 2010, SBX experienced a significant failure. According to program officials, as the primary sensor for the flight test, SBX’s task was to track the missile target, an intermediate-range missile, and provide a qualified track on the target to GMD. During the flight test, SBX initially performed as expected but then experienced a failure which prevented it from establishing a reportable track on the target. Additionally, during the last test of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense in February 2010, the SBX Radar did not perform as expected. The intercept failure investigation is ongoing.
uring the last test of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense in February 2010, the SBX Radar did not perform as expected. The intercept failure investigation is ongoing.
SBX to be Controlled by Navy, reports the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
MDA made progress toward fielding SBX and plans to hand over operational control of SBX to the Navy in FY2012. During FY2010, MDA completed a critical Navy inspection and certification necessary to hand over operational control of SBX.
Planned operational areas include positions in the northern, western, and middle Pacific Ocean. According to MDA, the Missile Defense Executive Board approved a recommendation from the Navy to utilize a more flexible approach allowing SBX to port at multiple locations rather than establishing a dedicated port for SBX. U.S. Strategic Command will exercise combatant commander authority of SBX and delegate operational control to the Navy via Pacific Command. Although the Navy will operate SBX, MDA will maintain the development responsibility for improving radar capabilities.