Video: Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) passes West Seattle

May 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

(Editor’s note, 11:11 pm: We watched till it passed Don Armeni; have added video and photos)

(Photo by Chris Fruitrich, added at 11:09 pm)
In comments on our morning preview, we’ve been getting reports that the Sea-Based X-Band Radar – the huge platform on its way to Vigor Shipyard on Harbor Island for three months of work, as we’ve been reporting since last week – is now in view from Alki. Photos as soon as available – the one above is a screengrab from earlier as it passed Hansville. (And they’re having a media event first thing tomorrow morning, so we’ll find out even more about this structure that will be a local fixture for months to come.)

(Dusk photo by Christopher Boffoli, added at 9:37 pm)
9:09 PM: On the boardwalk at Alki. If it were brightly sunny, it would be fairly visible now that it’s entering the bay. But at cloudy twilight it’s mostly lost in the dusk. Will likely be most interesting in another hour-plus as it approaches the shipyard, close enough, we’d imagine, that it’ll be visible despite the low light. It’s proceeding fairly slowly.

9:39 PM: Added a photo Christopher Boffoli took at dusk. Most striking thing we notice as it gets closer to Alki is all the flashing blue lights from what must be escort boats, so much lower in the water.

11:13 PM: Back from watching till it made its way past Don Armeni, where we shot the video now embedded above this line, with the structure seeming to eclipse the downtown skyscrapers.

12:12 AM: Adding a few more photos that we’ve received. The one immediately above is from Gary Jones. A later shot from Christopher:

And from Paul Arthur:

Though SBX is not to operate while here, its regular mission is described as “to identify ballistic missile threats and relay that information to the battle management, command, control and communications system for missile defense.” It’s based in the western Aleutian Islands.


  1. It is coming around Magnolia right now

    Comment by Sandy — 8:38 pm May 10, 2011 #

  2. 10:15 … it just passed by Luna Park @ Alki headed East…

    Comment by clifton — 10:19 pm May 10, 2011 #

  3. It’s just offshore from the shipyard now. With all of its lights, plus the tugboats, plus the police escorts, it kind of reminds me of the 4th of July.

    Comment by jay — 10:27 pm May 10, 2011 #

  4. Wow. Just got back from Hamilton viewpoint. Seeing it glide slowly across the bay, its rig all lit up and sci-fi looking, was quite the experience!

    Comment by Mookie — 10:34 pm May 10, 2011 #

  5. Still out there Lou? Lou is on watch for it.

    Comment by Steph — 10:35 pm May 10, 2011 #

  6. I shot it passing Don Armeni – about as close as it got, there and Duwamish Head, there was a sizable viewing party – and will have video up within 10 mins. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:53 pm May 10, 2011 #

  7. Very interesting view from Salty’s tonight with the big orb obstructing a good chunk of the downtown skyline. It’s so big!

    Comment by kte — 11:11 pm May 10, 2011 #

  8. it was parked for about an hour; just started moving again toward Harbor Island few mins ago

    Comment by Diane — 11:51 pm May 10, 2011 #

  9. While cool looking, it appears to be more Ronald Raygun Star Wars nonsense, a system that doesn’t work and never will for a threat that doesn’t exist:

    Considering that the radar is floating on a Russian built oil drilling platform, where’s the enemy here?

    Another system that is wasting your tax dollars while the Republicans (and many Democrats) can’t cut social spending fast enough…


    Comment by Val Vashon — 2:38 am May 11, 2011 #

  10. ok- flying back into Seattle last night, I think I saw that maybe- whatever it was, I was wondering, and of course I find out from WSB. those photos are so cool.

    Comment by sam-c — 6:44 am May 11, 2011 #

  11. Wow! I can see it from my living room. It’s pretty huge.

    Comment by austin — 7:54 am May 11, 2011 #

  12. Here are a couple more shots from last night.

    Comment by mike — 9:47 am May 11, 2011 #

  13. It will be cool if they move it back out at night when all the repairs are done!

    Comment by coffee — 11:51 am May 11, 2011 #

  14. Thanks to all the great people who got photos my camera skills couldn’t capture and the WSB for posting them!!!

    Comment by clifton — 1:40 pm May 11, 2011 #

  15. re: your headline “Video: Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) towed past West Seattle”.. it was not being towed. It came in under its own power. Just fyi.

    Comment by John — 2:16 pm May 11, 2011 #

  16. Thanks, John, I only changed it to that late last night so I’ll just change it back! So the tugs were just escorts?? – TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:30 pm May 11, 2011 #

  17. I thought for sure it was Rover my old friend from the village :

    Comment by #6 — 4:50 pm May 18, 2011 #

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