Missile Defense Radar Getting Upgrade

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – The military says its $900 million, 28-story missile defense radar will receive $27 million in renovations.

The Missile Defense Agency plans to equip the floating complex with a new rescue boat, lights for its helicopter pad and other upgrades over the next 6 months, project manager Army Col. John Fellows said during a tour of the facility this week.

The modifications address problems outlined in a report the agency commissioned last year. The report was designed to help prepare the radar _ a converted oil drilling rig topped by a giant white globe _ for real-world operations, Fellows said.

Email newsletter signup

The X-Band Radar is expected to undergo a round of upgrades at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard through early next year. It will take a break for a few months starting in August, however, to participate in missile defense tests off Hawaii and California.

The radar, which is based in the Aleutian Islands port of Adak, is part of a planned missile defense network the U.S. military is rolling out in the Pacific Rim.

It is designed to feed data about incoming projectiles to a command center and to troops tasked with launching interceptors from underground silos in Alaska and California.

The radar is so powerful it can spot baseball-sized objects from 3,000 miles away. That precision enables it to distinguish between missile warheads and decoys so U.S. interceptors can seek the right target.

Critics say the radar is too expensive and part of an unproven and inadequately tested missile defense program that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

But Fellows argues it is a small investment if it prevents a ballistic missile from landing on a U.S. city.

The helicopter pad upgrades will allow all types of choppers, from Army Black Hawks to commercial helicopters, to land in an emergency.

The new rescue boat will help crew members swiftly retrieve anyone who may fall into frigid Alaskan waters. The existing boats aren’t able to rescue overboard sailors as quickly.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)