The X Factor

June 01, 2011

Dear Members and Friends,


Standing out starkly for the Memorial Day weekend crowds, directly across from the Seattle skyline and Space Needle in the docks of Elliot Bay, is our nation’s Sea -Based X-band radar (SBX). The SBX is the critical sensor for the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) protecting the western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii from North Korea.


Located only a few home runs from Safeco Field, where the New York Yankees played the Seattle Mariners this past weekend, lies the world’s largest X-band radar hidden in the controlled environment of a gigantic white covered bubble. The SBX is so powerful and technologically advanced that from Seattle it could tell you where to place your bat to the inch in Yankee Stadium, 2,500 miles away. You would be able to hit home runs on every pitch at speeds in excess of 22,000 mph, no matter what the rotation or maneuver of the ball is or if that ball is mixed with thousands of other objects at those speeds.


The SBX is a phenomenal technology that provides superior confidence in our nation’s capability to define and target an incoming ballistic missile warhead with or without counter measures and maneuvering abilities. This is done 100 miles up in space and can guide any of the thirty deployed GBIs in Alaska and California to a successful intercept. The SBX has the proven capability to provide this level of accuracy for other U.S. missile defense systems such as the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system and the ground-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.


The SBX was the pivotal sensor system in the shoot down of the U.S. satellite on February 20, 2008 in Operation Burnt Frost using the Aegis BMD System, a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA missile launched from the USS Lake Erie. The SBX continues to be used as an integral tracking and discrimination sensor for every ballistic missile defense test across the Pacific.


It remains a concern that the Administration’s projected architecture for the protection of the Eastern U.S. from Iran does not have a similar land- or sea-based X-band radar in acquisition, planning or development.


If you cannot discriminate from a cloud of objects at very high speeds and precisely track the targeted warhead amongst them, it doesn’t matter how many intercepting missiles you have or how good they are. If you can’t see it, you can’t hit it.


The SBX with its small radar wave lengths gives great confidence in our GBIs for the defense of the Western U.S. from ballistic missile threats.

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