USNS Howard O. Lorenzen

The US Air Force Technical Applications Centre (USAFTAC) has commissioned the new Cobra King maritime radar system aboard the US Navy’s missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Howard O. Lorenzen.

Comprising S and X-band phased radars, the Cobra King is a new, mobile radar system that enables the USAFTAC to offer high-quality, high-resolution and multi-wavelength radar data to the Department of Defense’s strategic community, the Missile Defense Agency and other government agencies.

Both the radar and the vessel form the sea component of DoD’s Cobra programme, which monitors missile and space launches.

AFTAC commander colonel Chris Worley said: "As Cobra Judy was decommissioned, Cobra King quickly transitioned to ensure our mission of foreign ballistic missile detection was virtually uninterrupted, and we were able to continuously execute our international treaty monitoring responsibilities."

Operated by the Military Sealift Command under a support agreement with the AFTAC, the vessel comprises a combined crew of civilian mariners to operate and navigate the vessel.

It also includes military technicians and civilian contractors who operate and maintain the radar and communications equipment.

AFTAC Operations director Jonathan VanNoord said: "The mission commander (MC) aboard Cobra King is a member of my operations team.

"His or her ultimate responsibility is to ensure the platform team members are able to successfully collect mission data.

"In addition to daily mission taskings, the MC works closely with experts from MSC to develop a prioritised listing of necessary ship-related items whenever the vessel is in port or at the shipyard."

Weighing 12,642t, the 534ft-long USNS Howard O. Lorenzen completed its final contract trials off the coast of California, US, in November 2013.

Raytheon was the primary contractor for the $1.74bn project, which also includes Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, IBM and Kiewit Offshore Services.

Image: The US Navy’s missile range instrumentation ship Howard O. Lorenzen. Photo: courtesy of Robb from Canada.

Defence Technology