It was almost two years ago when I got a chance to ride the Admiral’s Barge in the vicinity of the Sea Based X-Band Radar or SBX. From the water it was huge but from land it seemed even bigger. For the past two years, every time I’d see the SBX sail? cruise? float? into town I would put my request into the Navy to see if I could bring on a group. I got pretty close late last year in 2011. Some emails went back and forth and the stars began to align. Then in early 2012 North Korea decided to launch their “communications” satellite. The next thing I notice, the SBX is gone.
So when the SBX docked at Ford Island this past May, I reactivated by email thread and started the discussion again. Thanks to the Commander Navy Region Hawaii and the Missile Defense Agency, our request was granted. I assembled about a dozen interested social networkers, bloggers, photogs, videographers and tech enthusiasts to take part in this rare opportunity.
Lt. Colonel Steve Braddom, Product Manager for the SBX, explains the size of the vessel in comparison to USS Nimitz air craft carrier. The SBX is about as high and wide as the Nimitz but about 1/3 the length. Climbing the 151 steps up to the deck was quite the experience and does give you a sense of its height.
One of the interesting features of the SBX is the radome or what appears to be the big “golf ball” sitting on top of the platform. It is basically a huge balloon made of “high-tech synthetic fabric,” filled with air at a pressure that keeps it inflated. Depending on the wind conditions the pressure is adjusted accordingly. It is reported that the radome can sustain wind speeds of 130 miles per hour.
What is inside that radome is what piques my interest. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any recording devices into the radome to take pictures of the X-band phase array radar. Lt. Col. Braddom did say we could reference the photo below from the Missile Defense Agency’s Flickr account. This is basically what we saw. It is quite impressive. The rotates enabling the radar to move 360 degrees. It is also able to tilt from this vertical position to a horizontal one.
The original home base of the SBX was Adak, Alaska but for various reasons, one of which is fuel costs, whenever the SBX isn’t in the waters off Asia, it’s docked at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Apparently, Pearl Harbor’s central location to the Pacific Region is big factor in attracting the SBX.
Enjoy some of the posts from our band of tech geeks:
- Ryan Ozawa – Journey to the SBX
- Todd Ogasawara – Photos from a visit to the Missile Defense Agency’s Sea-Based X-Band Radar Vessel
- Dallas Nagata-White - Facebook photo set
- Ricky Li – Facebook photo set