Missile Radar Still Adrift


CBS News took a peek last night at our favorite giant golf ball, er, missile defense radar.SBX.jpgWith documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight the CBS News Investigative Unit found a host of issues with the Sea-Based X-Band Radar SBX for short that still remain unresolved, just ahead of its activation in the waters off Adak Island, Alaska.- Beyond questions raised in our CBS Evening News story about plans to stick it in some of the most unforgiving weather in the world, if the SBX has a single point of failure, according to sources within Missile Defense, it is The Dove. The Dove is the large support vessel, 279 feet long, which travels with the SBX, delivers personnel, supplies and fuel to the radar platform. Though the SBX has a helicopter platform, military and Coast Guard helicopters wont land there. So the SBX uses a single crane to lift people and material off the Dove. According to the Coast Guard letter obtained by CBS News, there are regularly waves as high as 30 feet many days out of the year. There are concerns that the Dove will not be able to maneuver close enough to the SBX to re-supply without colliding or injuring crew men in those conditions.Other potential problems include:-Fuel spills: the Dove carries 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel and the SBX carries 1.2 million gallons. If both vessels spilled their fuel in the pristine waters off Adak Island, it would be the second largest fuel spill in Alaskan history. Second only to the Exxon Valdez. How likely is a fuel spill? According to incident reports obtained by the Investigative Unit, the Dove spilled 3-5 gallons of diesel during fueling operations on December 9th. It happened near Hawaii and the system was shut down when crewmembers saw a growing oil slick. Thats not a lot of fuel by Exxon Valdez standards but the spill occurred in ocean conditions with 12-foot swells, relatively calm compared to conditions in the Bering Sea.-Security: As a source within the Missile Defense Agency said, Trying to defend a billion dollar asset with rifles, shotguns and 50 cals is ridiculous. The SBX will be protected around the clock by about a dozen lightly armed security contractors. Can the SBX defend itself from a direct attack by a bomb-laden boat?

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