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BMD Watch: Alaska 'home' ready for SBX

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst   |   Sept. 26, 2007 at 10:05 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The home port facilities for the giant Sea-Based X-Band Radar that is a crucial component of the U.S. Ground-based Mid-course Interceptor, or GBI, system in Alaska took a major leap forward last week.

The Boeing Co. said last Thursday that the mooring system for the SBX had been completed at the giant tracking radar's home port in Alaska.

"Manson Construction, a Boeing subcontractor, used tugs, barges and cranes to place the mooring system's eight anchors on the bottom of Kuluk Bay. Heavy machinery aboard a barge then dragged the 75-metric-ton anchors, embedding them into the sea bed. The construction team completed the installation three weeks ahead of schedule," Boeing said.

"This was an enormous undertaking, and completing it 21 days ahead of schedule was the result of excellent planning and great teamwork by all players, including industry partners Manson Construction Co., Golder Co. and Glosten Associates; our government customer, the Missile Defense Agency; and the American Bureau of Shipping, which ensured the work met all mooring installation standards," said Paul Smith, director of Ground-based Mid-course Defense radars.

"When SBX visits its home port of Adak, Alaska, a small island in the Aleutian Islands, it will be chained to the anchors to keep it stationary in Kuluk Bay," Boeing said.

The Missile Defense Agency's GBI program remains the United States' only current operational system designed to be effective against intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Boeing is the prime contractor for the program.

"The completion of the mooring system is an important achievement because it will allow the Sea-Based X-Band Radar to operate closer to shore, making it easier to protect and resupply the vessel," said Scott Fancher, vice president and program director for GMD.

"This will enhance SBX's ability to perform essential sensing functions for the GMD system, which defends the United States against long-range ballistic missiles. SBX can be deployed worldwide; it can detect small objects thousands of miles away; it can provide critical data on incoming ballistic missile threats; and it is the only platform of its type in the world," Fancher said.

The gigantic SBX array is mounted on a modified semi-submersible oil drilling platform. It "arrived in Alaskan waters in February for the first time after completing a self-propelled, 2,200-nautical-mile journey from Hawaii. During its voyage, the platform displayed its durability by successfully navigating severe winter storms in the northern Pacific Ocean, including waves more than 50 feet high and wind gusts of more than 100 miles an hour," Boeing said.

"The radar system is able to move throughout the Pacific Ocean, or any of the world's oceans, to support advanced missile defense testing and defensive operations," the company said.

"During a GMD test in March, the mobile SBX, positioned in the north-central Pacific Ocean, demonstrated its capability by detecting, tracking and assessing a long-range ballistic missile target launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.," it said.

Boeing noted that the GBI system "consists of sensors, command-and-control facilities, communications terminals, a 20,000-mile fiber optic communications network, and interceptors deployed in underground silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California and Ft. Greely, Alaska. Industry partners include Raytheon, Orbital Sciences Corp., and Northrop Grumman."

Defense News reported Sunday that the MDA's director, Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering III, said last week that the SBX had already successfully used the new mooring facilities at Adak.

“The mooring system will ensure the SBX is safely secured to the ocean seabed while at its home port in Kuluk Bay,” Obering said, according to the report.

Defense News said the SBX mooring system required eight 75-metric-ton anchors.

The report described the SBX facility as 240 feet wide and 390 feet long, and rising over 280 feet from its keel to the top of the radar dome with a displacement of 50,000 tons.


MDA plans new GBI test Friday

The SBX will get a test workout very soon. The Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper in Alaska reported Tuesday that the Kodiak Launch Complex is preparing for another GBI test as early as this Friday.

The newspaper reported that the SBX radar is currently "sailing in an undisclosed location in the Pacific."

The paper said that Rick Lehner, Missile Defense Agency spokesman in Washington, said Friday that the launch would be another attempt to carry out the test that was originally intended to be held last May. But it had to be scrapped because the target missile failed after launching from Kodiak. There was no problem with the interceptor, but the test had to be scrapped because there was no target missile for it to shoot at.

"The test also includes testing SBX’s ability to track or shadow the attacking missile.

"The upcoming launch, the 12th fired from KLC, has a primary objective of the interceptor striking the target missile," the newspaper said.


Aerojet wins new NCADE risk-reduction contract

Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced last week it had won a $3.5 million contract for more work on risk reduction on the NCADE's propulsion system.

Aerojet said the contract was given to it by Raytheon Missile Systems "to continue risk reduction efforts on the propulsion system for the Missile Defense Agency's Network Centric Airborne Defense Element program. NCADE is an air-launched weapon system designed to intercept ballistic missiles in the boost or terminal flight phases, thus increasing the effectiveness of the country's ballistic missile defense."

"The Aerojet propulsion system uses an advanced higher performance and lower toxicity propellant when compared to traditional propellants," the company said. "The green propellant, Hydroxylammonium Nitrate, designated as AF-M315E, was developed and produced by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base."

"Aerojet has been developing AF-M315E propellant engines for more than 10 years and recently demonstrated an engine for the NCADE system that provided more than 150 pounds of thrust for longer than 25 seconds. The ongoing support from the Air Force has been critical to developing this capability for missile defense interceptors such as NCADE," the company said.

"Aerojet is working closely with Raytheon and our government partners to achieve the NCADE goals. We anticipate several demonstration tests to further strengthen the role for NCADE in our national missile defense," said Aerojet's president, Scott Neish.

© 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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