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. 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.
As The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports, 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 (ground-based 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-foot-tall SBX is topped by a golf ball-like dome containing a phased array radar and is a hard-to-miss sight at its mooring off Ford Island. The powerful radar, which is only operated at sea, acquires, tracks and discriminates the flight characteristics of ballistic missiles.
TheUnion of Concerned Scientists reported $2.2 billion SBX is designed for long-range 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.