The United States sent forth the most powerful X-band radar in the world on its sea based platform, the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) to the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii this week. This SBX radar cued by TPY-2 Forward Based Radars in Japan and other sensors, through Command and Control from Colorado Springs, can define with precision an ICBM warhead after separation in space unlike any other radar in the world today. As an example, the SBX – home ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – has the capability to see and track from Hawaii, taking the curvature of the earth out of the equation, the seams of a rotating baseball being pitched at over 17,000 miles per hour, 2,500 miles away in Los Angeles. The SBX has even more capability when directed towards space during the midcourse flight of an ICBM and can discriminate the warhead, multiple warheads or multiple missiles from debris and provide that information to the interceptor. The SBX has been used on all of the Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) tests since it was deployed in 2006, collecting invaluable data on the target warhead in space during midcourse flight and passing that information through Schriever Air Force Base (AFB) in Colorado Springs and to the GBI, providing the best targeting information for the intercept. Modeling and simulation data from the SBX collected on GBI tests has been an invaluable tool to enhance reliability and confidence with the current GBIs protecting the United States Homeland today.
With a very likely North Korean ICBM test upcoming, the United States Government – by openly deploying the SBX out to sea – sent a very clear strategic message of deterrence to the ICBM threat of the North Korean Leader that has intensified (Link to news article) since first announced on January 1st, 2017 (Link to news article). The SBX deployed in the Pacific Ocean enhances and boosts the probability of kill (PK) for each of the current 37 and soon to be 44 GBIs in both Alaska and California, if fired at a North Korean ICBM within their range in the mid-Pacific Ocean.
If the North Korean test ICBM is not targeting U.S. or Allied territory, the SBX deployed in the Pacific would also be in position to collect invaluable precision data on the warhead and debris of a North Korean ICBM test flying in space. This would provide critical information that would enhance and strengthen the reliability and confidence of the current and future GBIs.
North Korea has tested six long range rockets since 1998 similar in speeds to an ICBM with two of them successfully putting a satellite in orbit, the latest in February 2016. North Korea most likely wants to demonstrate through this test its warhead design and the re-entry capability of a successful ICBM launch in order to validate its strategic nuclear force. North Korea has yet to successfully test a ICBM.
We commend President Obama’s administration, the Department of Defense, and PACOM on its decision to place the SBX in position to send a strategic message and enhance our defense against the North Korean ballistic missile threat to Hawaii and the U.S. Homeland.