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Floating radar station prepares to sail for remote island
Anchorage Daily News


August 05, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A massive floating radar station that detects enemy missiles will sail soon to Adak, a remote island in the Aleutian chain. The $815 million X-band radar platform is a key part of the Bush administration's multibillion-dollar missile-defense program.

The sea-based radar platform - the only one of its kind in the world - was assembled in Texas by defense contractors Boeing and Raytheon. The self-propelled station sits 21 stories high and is as wide as a football field, rendering it too gigantic to squeeze through the Panama Canal, according to Boeing publicity materials.

The converted oil platform with a space-age-looking dome atop will take the long route, rounding South America and heading to Hawaii before reaching Adak by Christmas or early next year.

When it reaches Adak, 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, the radar station will float just off the town, a former naval station that Aleut Corp. is redeveloping into a residential community and fishing port. The X-band radar will be linked to missile interceptors buried in underground silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Anchorage-based Aleut Corp. successfully bid to have the X-band stationed at Adak, beating out Vandenburg as well as companies in Everett, Wash., and Honolulu, said Curtis Smith, a spokesman for the company. The company's chief executive, Dave Jensen, said Aleut's success in getting the X-band marks a milestone, not just for his company or Adak but for the state.

"This is a monster project for Alaska," Jensen said.

The radar and the business it will spawn are a big step for Adak's redevelopment and economy, Jensen said. Up to 100 people will work inside the massive structure, all of whom will need to go ashore from time to time for goods, services and recreation.

"People will be going to the pub and the pizzeria," he said.

The station is an integral component of President Bush's controversial missile-defense program, which aims to protect the United States from limited ballistic-missile attacks launched by terrorists or rogue states.

Critics, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, have described the program as a $53 billion boondoggle that will do little to increase the nation's security. Some say it's wracked with too many technological challenges. Others say terrorists are more likely to use suicide bombers than ballistic missiles.

The missile-defense program was started during the Reagan era. Then, the space-based approach was commonly known as "Star Wars." Since then, the federal government has spent nearly $100 billion to protect the country from missile attacks. After taking office in 2001, Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The next year he directed the Pentagon to ramp up a ground-based missile-defense program.

Missile defense is a major part of the administration's national-security policy. But recent flight tests have not been successful. In December and February, mock enemy rockets were fired from the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island. Problems occurred with the interceptors both times, and the tests failed.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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