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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Russians Build U.S. Giant Missile Defense Radar in Texas?

Don't tell anybody, but a giant sea-based radar that looks like something out of a science fiction movie looms over the coast of southern Texas where it is nearing completion as the next piece in the controversial U.S. missile defense system.

The final touches are being put on the 280-foot (85-metre)- tall X-band radar system that this summer is expected to ship out on a 20,000-mile (32,000-km) trip from Texas around South America to arrive at what will be its home port in Adak, Alaska, by late December.

"We are well on the way to meeting our goals on schedule," project director Army Col. Mike Smith told reporters on Tuesday. "We expect to be fully operational at year's end."

The $815 million radar, a distant relative of the X-band radar used by police to detect speeding drivers, is designed to detect incoming missiles and discern whether they are decoys.

It is a critical new link in the missile defense system being pushed by the Bush administration to protect the United States from enemy attacks.

The Pentagon is spending about $10 billion a year on the system, which has many critics who say it is too costly and its usefulness and functionality too questionable.

Smith said the radar, built by Raytheon Co. , was based on proven technology, but had not been tested and was not expected to get a full try until it neared Hawaii and a missile range there on its voyage north.

The radar has been in Texas getting fitted to a huge mobile oil platform, built by a Russian firm, that normally would steam out to offshore waters and be used as a base to drill oil and gas wells.

A giant Teflon-like cover, installed last month, envelops the radar and glistens in the Texas sun like a 150-foot (46-metre)-tall white bubble. It is visible for miles (km) on the scrub-covered coast at Ingleside, 15 miles (24 km) across the bay from the seaside city of Corpus Christi.

Smith said the radar would be positioned in the northern Pacific to keep an eye on what is viewed as the greatest missile threat to the United States -- North Korea -- but could go anywhere in the world's oceans under its own power.

With a top speed about 7 mph (11 kph), it would take a while to get there.

Boeing Co. is the prime contractor on the so-called Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.

Smith said the X-band radar, also known as the SBX, was originally planned as a land-based system but that a sea-based system became possible when the Bush administration, to the chagrin of a number of other countries, withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Smith touts the flexibility the sea-based system provides and says it is designed to withstand 130-mph (210-km) winds and a "100-year storm."

The radar is by far the largest of its kind, he said, which will allow it to scan a horizon of about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) at a sensitivity so great it could detect the movement of a baseball at the opposite end of the United States.

Information from the radar would go to the missile system nerve center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which could then deploy defensive missiles from sites in Alaska and California.

Tests of intercept missiles have literally been hit-or-miss, with close to half either not getting off the ground or missing the target.


Anonymous Electra said...

Hey, what if they targeted that big ol floating thingy? Bummer.

7 miles an hour? Cubans are floating past that dinosaur!

12:14 AM  

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