I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Sea Based X-Band radar ship, or SBX-1 as it is called. It is a large radar mounted on what would have been a oil drilling platform. SBX-1’s mission is to detect and discriminate incoming ballistic missiles so that they can be shot down by the U.S.’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. Although it is currently docked in Pearl Harbor, it has been deployed recently during North Korea’s missile test.
151 steps is definitely not the kind of commute I would want to do every day. Our guide, Lt. Col. Steve Braddom, said that the crew has the option of going ashore but I’d guess they keep that to a minimum.
The SBX-1 is now in a limited test support role and will remain in Pearl Harbor unless it needs to be re-activated. The original intent of the ship was to go wherever it is needed in the Pacific theatre and be stationed in Alaska. However, SBX-1 was moved to Hawaii for budget reasons. The maintenance in lower in places that don’t freeze I suppose.
The most intriguing part of the tour was when we went inside of the radome, the inflatable dome that surrounds the radar. The radome can protect the radar from winds of at least 130 m.p.h. It’s remarkable since the difference in air pressure inside the dome was only about 1.5″ of water higher than the outside. Call it about 0.05 psi.
If you’re really curious as to what the radar itself looks like, there’s a photo of the X-band radar being installed on the ship in Texas. It’s about 1/3 of the way down the page.