Failure to Launch: Gates Refuses Request to Use Top Missile Defense Radar

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates refused to grant permission to U.S. Northern Command to use the nation’s most powerful sea-based radar to monitor North Korea’s recent missile launch. Why is this significant? Because the $900 million dollar system, known as SBX, is capable of detecting a baseball hit out of a ballpark from more than 3,000 miles away and provides unparalleled details of missile capabilities. The system is three to four times more powerful than all other radars in the missile defense inventory. If any system should have been used to monitor the launch it is SBX.

One explanation for Gates’ lapse in judgment is that the Administration was worried the repositioning of the floating radar system would be seen as provocative by North Korea and upset diplomatic efforts. (more…)