Radar ship makes port visit to Yokosuka
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A plain white ship with two hulking radar systems capable of tracking missiles through space moored at Yokosuka this past week.
The USNS Howard O. Lorenzen, one of two missile range instrumentation ships in service, is operated by civilian mariners, servicemembers and myriad government personnel under the Navy’s Military Sealift Command but sponsored by the Air Force Technical Applications Center.
The ship’s arrival coincides with ongoing tensions over missile program advancements in the Asia-Pacific region. In October, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told reporters in Washington that he thinks North Korea is capable of adding a miniature nuclear device to a ballistic missile. Meanwhile, China is building advanced missiles as a mean of controlling access and ship movement in the international waters of the East and South China seas, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress.
Military officials have said little about the Lorenzen’s plans. The ship entered service just this summer and arrived at Yokosuka for a routine port visit.
“Seventh Fleet provides support and logistics, but we don’t actually determine its activities,” Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks said.
The full capabilities of Lorenzen’s new Cobra King radar system haven’t been publicly released, but an Air Force statement said the X- and S-band phased radars provide “worldwide, high quality, high resolution, multi-wavelength radar data.”
Sea-based radar has long been one of the Pentagon’s most powerful mobile tracking systems.
In 2005, Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III told Congress that the X-band radar “is so capable that, if it were sitting in Chesapeake Bay, it could detect a baseball-sized object in space over San Francisco.”
The new system was built by a consortium led by Raytheon and a cost of $1.74 billion, according to the Air Force.
The X and S-band arrays weigh 500,000 pounds each, according to naval-technology.com.