One of the first things that greeted us when we arrived in Hawaii was the SBX. The first thing we thought to call her was the Death Star. It’s a giant looking golf ball perched on a platform that sits in the harbor. You can see her from almost any of the higher elevations on the island. When we climb Diamond Head, it’s my reference point to finding my house. The kids and I thought she looked a little like the Death Star and texted pictures of the her large white dome at sunset and sent it to our Star Wars loving friends in Virginia while we were living at the Navy Lodge when we arrived. Ray tried to explain what she did. I think all I heard was radar blah blah la la fallallala. I learned so much on this tour.
SBX is an acronym for Sea-Based X-Band Radar. On Wednesday I can’t even tell you how excited I was to be able to go inside the SBX and learn all about her. Granted I felt a little like this with all the technology.
So the SBX in a nutshell: It is the largest floating, self-propelled, mobile active electronically scanned array radar station in the world, designed to operate in high winds and heavy seas. My friend summed it on Facebook as, “The largest and most sophisticated phased array electro-mechanically steered X-band radar in the world.” Um yeah. Basically she is a
bad@#$ awesome missle defense system. All this AND I got to go inside! Seriously, this was an incredible opportunity.
Here she is as we waited impatiently to board her. When she goes out to patrol the pacific and search the skies, she submerges to those water marks. Her longest time at sea was over three hundred days…AT SEA. That is unheard of in the navy community. Ships need to port for supplies and refueling. She is amazing.
That ball is not a hard shell. She is actually made out of a material that is akin to kevlar. She is blown up like a giant bounce house and mounted like a ship’s sail. I got to go inside to see the radar mount that was 10 stories high. We went up another 8 flights of stairs. No cameras or recording devices are allowed inside. I kept hearing there is no way to describe what we would see. That was a true statement indeed. In fact, it was mind blowing. I’m pretty sure my mouth was slack almost the entire time we crawled around inside. Even more impressive, she can see something the size of a baseball from 2,500 miles away.
I left the tour and felt like my brain was mush and my legs were jello-o. (There are lots of stairs involved with this tour.) How do these scientist figure this stuff out? All I want to know is, “Can you stop a missile attack?” The answer I kept hearing was YES! I am no scientist. Ray is not writing this blog. Of course Wikipedia has a page. If you would like more information on this amazing vessel click here.
Another great part of the tour was the people. I really enjoyed meeting the crew. They were great and they were all so excited to explain what they do. They clearly love their jobs and are proud of it. I loved seeing the signs that hung around the ship. One said, “A ship is safest in port but that’s not what a ship is built for.” I love that! I also saw a John Wayne quote printed and taped to a work space on the bridge that said, “Life is hard. It’s harder stupid.” Amen. Amen. Amen.
We finished out on the helo pad with some of the best views you could see of my beloved Aiea.
It was an amazing day, an amazing opportunity and something I will never forget. I am so grateful for the time we’ve had on this little island and the things I’ve learned an experienced. It truly has been a fabulous tour.