Time For Repairs

By John Liang / October 13, 2010 at 6:50 PM

The Missile Defense Agency's Sea-Based X-Band Radar will undergo modifications and maintenance at the Todd Shipyard in Seattle, WA, next year, according to an agency statement. The decision "was made in order to accommodate available shipyard space with required maintenance schedules. Work on the vessel's thrusters and other modifications must begin in March 2011 to maintain its Certificate of Inspection issued by the American Bureau of Shipping," the statement continues. Specifically:

Work is expected to start in March and will be ongoing for about 90 days, and the estimated cost of the work is expected to be about $9.4 million.

Maintenance to the vessel requires a port with water depth of at least 50 feet. There are only three facilities on the West Coast with water deep enough for this type of work. The other two are Naval Station Everett, Wash., and Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

SBX encountered problems during an MDA intercept test in January. The radar "did not perform as expected," according to a statement issued at the time. "Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept."

As Inside Missile Defense reported in February:

Last month's intercept attempt, labeled FTG-06 and originally scheduled for the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009, was delayed to January "due to recently updated target model and simulation predictions," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told Inside Missile Defense in an e-mail last November.

According to MDA's justification document accompanying its FY-10 defense budget request, the FTG-06 test was meant to "demonstrate the engagement of a target" launched from Kwajalein Atoll with an Aegis AN/SPY-1 radar system "providing initial track" guidance along with updates from the Sea-Based X-Band radar. MDA Executive Director David Altwegg said at a Feb. 1 briefing, though, that SBX was the only sensor used during the intercept test.

Altwegg said it was "premature" to attribute the intercept failure to the SBX. "I'm not exonerating the SBX, but I am not saying it was solely an SBX problem. Speculation is something I shouldn't be doing here. Let's find out what the data says. Let the Failure Review Board analyze it," he added.

MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told IMD in an e-mail today that he has not "received any information for public release regarding SBX's participation in the 31 January [2010] GMD test." He added that the agency still plans to use SBX in the next GMD test scheduled to take place by the end of this calendar year.