Sea based X-band Radar It may look like something straight from a science-fiction novel, but this unusual structure is actually part of the United States Government's Ballistic Missile Defence system. The Sea-based X-band Radar, originally built at Vyborg, is an important part of the American defence system. The structure itself is a floating, self-launched, mobile radar station, built to operate in high winds and heavy sea situations. The Goliath-like construction, with a height of 85 metres (279 feet) and a length of 116 metres (381 feet), has its uses - detecting incoming ballistic missiles.

Is the Obama administration taking North Korea’s threat to launch a long-range missile seriously enough?

With North Korea poised to launch as early as this weekend, you would think we would have deployed our SBX radar. You’d be wrong.

The ship-borne Sea-Based X Band Radar (SBX) is one of the best missile tracking radars in the U.S. inventory. It was used most recently in the successful Dec. 5, 2008, missile-defense test. In that test, we directed an interceptor missile from California right into a missile fired from Kodiak Island, Alaska. That test was designed specifically to simulate an attack from North Korea.

It seems like a no-brainer to deploy the SBX in light of North Korea’s scheduled launch. It cost the taxpayers almost a billion dollars to build this stuff. Why not put it in position to do the job it was built to do?

But the Pentagon seems to have no intention of deploying this powerful radar—even though there are reports that the most senior military leaders in the Asia-Pacific theater asked to have the radar on station. Instead, when North Korea defies U.N. sanctions and launches its long-range missiles, SBX will be docked at Pearl Harbor. The ship is supposedly undergoing “repairs,” but there are reports that these repairs are not “mission critical” and SBX could have put to sea if it were so ordered.

North Korea certainly wants us to take their launch seriously. It’s a big part of why they conduct these tests. More importantly, our allies want us to take it seriously. No one wants to see North Korea plunge the region into war. Most importantly, Americans want Washington to take missile defense seriously. They want to go to bed at night knowing they are protected from ballistic missile threats.

These days, that seems to leave the administration as the odd man out.