Dodging a Missile

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Such near-shore surprise attacks were a Cold War planner’s nightmare — the probable time to impact would be less than the minimum time required to respond to it. During early 1960s, fear that a Soviet submarine attack targeted against the Strategic Air Command’s bomber bases could destroy America’s B-52 and refueling tanker fleet while still on the ground fundamentally reshaped America’s nuclear forces. While the bomber fleet was maintained on constant alert, the United States rushed development of Atlas, Titan and Minuteman ballistic missiles, giving the country a long-range strike force that could be kept far away from vulnerable coastal areas.

The Navy also developed the Polaris missile, that could be fired from submerged submarines, giving the United States an easily hidden, awesomely powerful second-strike force that provided America with a safe deterrent sufficient to destroy dozens of Soviet cities. The development of the nuclear strike triad continues to shape U.S. defense doctrine to this day, and was almost entirely due to the kind of threat that seemingly manifested itself off the coast of California this week.

The end of the Cold War has not ended the threat. While the likelihood of a sudden, “bolt-from-the-blue” attack by Russia or China is exceedingly low, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile launcher systems makes an asymmetrical attack upon a technologically advanced Western country distressingly possible. A country like North Korea or Pakistan, or one day Iran, could strike a devastating blow against the United States by using a limited number of nuclear weapons to generate an electromagnetic pulse over North America, destroying our power grids and virtually all electronic devices, including vital communications and command and control links. Such an attack, probably the most realistic doomsday threat facing the West today, could easily be carried out by submarines or even cargo ships carrying nuclear-tipped missiles in North American coastal waters.

Clearly, whatever Monday’s event was, the inability of the United States to swiftly even confirm whether a missile even had been launched raises tough questions about whether or not America is in a position to respond to a sudden attack from its coastal waters. Should the contrail over Los Angeles prove to be nothing, America should count itself lucky to have had this as a wakeup call. Next time, it might be the real thing. The time for America to get ready is now.

Matt Gurney is an editor at the National Post, a Canadian national newspaper, and writes and speaks on military and geopolitical issues. He can be reached at and on Twitter @mattgurney.

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  • Jim Johnson

    From where I live in Nevada I have seen the launch of several military missiles. They have a distinct appearance . The one in the picture did not look like any thing I have seen.

    • Rifleman

      It seemed to be too slow for escape or intercontinental velocities, taking into account its' direction of travel, and the engine of lower thrust or burning a less efficient fuel.

  • Paul

    Is sad that this guys(the officials) think we are all stupid. Of course it was a rocket! You have to be blind not to recognize it. The fact is for some reason they chose to cover it up. They could simply have said: it is classified! Mind your own business! And every one would have been ok. Instead they fueled the situation by saying: we have no idea! How dumb…

    • welldoneson

      Well, Paul, you've proven somebody stupid by insisting it was a rocket.
      It could have been nothing else than a plane, that journalists didn't see this
      instantly speaks to the sorry state of that "profession".
      Two obvious facts: the contrail is WAY too wide at the "base", and the "rocket" is
      moving WAY too slow considering the (alleged) distance from the camera.

      • Josephkempton

        Give Paul a break; I watched the video and it sure looked like a missile to me. I'm not a contrail expert but my understanding is that a jet liner will vaporize moisture thru each engine which should leave multiple vapor trails. I know vapor trails can merge but what I saw was one single trail which could have been from a single source or conceivable from a jet liner very far away. It all depends on hte distance. The contrail looked pretty big so my initial reaction would be to say it was close.

  • masatoyakushi

    Hope that missile didn't come to civil this really dangerous treat.

  • SHmuelHaLevi

    The contrail appear to show a corkscrew shape and that is not usual for aircraft contrails. Rockets in the other hand, if asuming a rotating trajectory for whatever reason, may produce such contrails.
    Anyway one looks at it, the worse is that no one in charge of National Security is ready to provide evidence either way

  • Ret. Marine

    Was this a "shot across our bow". While the "won" is yupping it up half way around the world with his shadow gubmint members, all 3,000 of them, this would be an excellent time to do so, don't you think?

    Now we are hearing the "won" is coming back because of the cloud of ash that might endanger his plane, yeah I don't think so, some one is lying about this, I want to know why.

  • Rifleman

    I think it was either a stunt by some American to warn us of our vulnerability, or a foolish demonstration by a foreign power. I doubt it was the rooskies (who have backpack nukes here already) or chicoms (who probably have as well), they would keep mum about it until they needed to lauch for real.

  • Greg

    Dry run comes to mind. I hope the ss is smart enough to bring mein fuhrer back to his second home a different route.

  • Zemapia

    I live in Orange County CA and we had one just like this about a year ago fired from the same place about the same time of day. Most likely? It's a Grail 7 or Stinger shoulder fired missle fired from the back of a fishing boat or from a Whisky Class submarine. They're probably taking pot shots at jets coming out of John Wayne or LAX. I'm not sure of the altitude passenger jets reach over the Catalina Island area but they may be just out of the 9000 to 13000 foot range of these missles, so these guys whoever they are may just be trying to get lucky. I'll bet the CIA is setting up a listiening and visual station on one of the islands nearby ready to scramble a couple of F-18's next time one of these mystery missles shows up.

    • tanstaafl

      Maybe that's why the administration is so tight lipped about the incident.

    • FredDawes1776

      The CIA is doing nothing Obama told the boys to stand down one year ago.

  • kim segar

    Remember the one that wizzed by a pasanger plane about 8 yrs ago in same place. the pilot reported it zinged by his window and he turned back, and then the other plane that did go down killing all? with Americans waking up to the rip off's in gov and state, a revolution is on it's way as the dictator in cheif, ilegal at that takes down the economy and the FEDs who seem to have control over Congress, maybe they need another 9/11 to control the masses. If one looks and is out of denial..the FIRST thing gov is to do is protect us. WE THE PEOPLE are the gov and seems like a few butts think they are the decider and egnore the votes and will of the people..I know something will happen to control to say nothing of America letting it happen including the personal spending Obama does with his own family and group. take George Washingtons wife, got into trouble buying china dishes to serve Presidents etc coming to America on business..Mrs. O spends millions. how sick we have become to sit back and let it continue. they all need to be locked up before we let INFLATION hit ..if we don't ,,the hammer will come down is almost there.


    Funny. I wonder if the America West flight from Honolulu to Phoenix that was precisely at that location, at that altitude and at that time saw anything unusual outside of their plane? No? Wonder why?

  • Stephen_Brady

    Where's Agents Mulder and Scully, when you need them?

  • AntiFascist18

    This is what we get for the likes of an imbecile as Tom Donilon is as National Security Adviser or RINO Bobby Gates who is more concerned about Gays in the military than this.

    We started the procedure of getting rid of the monkey at the ballot box – it is time to send him back to Nairobi come 11/12 – that is, if we can survive that long with this kind of incompetency.

  • FredDawes1776

    from what i can understand it was a system launch from the little chinese boys, our political trustees need us in line our;money system is about to disappear so the chinese Rats are getting us all in line for the big kill, with the help of this pig obama we have about 6 to 10 weeks before war, the boys in the top pacific fteel know its coming.

  • DVG93

    I am not saying it was a missle, but it looked like one to me. I have watched many shuttle launches from Jacksonville, and it had similarities.

    I hadn't considered a SAM, and that could fit the bill. I would like to see an entire play of the recording. Not sure if this is accuarte, but it seemed to pass in front of the first set of clouds, and behind the second. This would lead me to believe whatever it was, was in fact traveling away from La. That would lead me to conclude that it was not an airplane.

  • LM Bass

    Listen, every large jet and airplane is accurately tracked by the FAA and NORAD. Unless someone can pinpoint a flight number and planned flight path, then it was a missile. Remember a few years ago, the Chinese general who boasted that they could take-out Los Angeles? Well perhaps the Chinese (or for that matter the lunatics in the Kremlin) are showing their capacity for such action.

  • Sawyer

    I think it was a missile and one of the US militaries.

    However, what if it was a launch by the Russians or Chinese designed to make the US look weak?
    Or maybe a test run by a rogue state?
    I googled nuclear war preparedness and came up with this

  • Chezwick_Mac

    The plume of a SAM is much, much smaller than what was witnessed…and no one's going to convince me that this was an airplane.

    It was a rocket no doubt, perhaps a ballistic missile (though I somehow doubt it was an ICBM).

    Too weird.

  • Rainbow Man

    Bingo!!-If not it was a Ship to Ship from a sub-just to show it can be done-by someone..I wonder who…

  • Abdullah

    "The sky is falling!"

    It is a vapor trail with a wind moving it from the right hand side.

  • Don Bodell

    Watch out! You may be abducted and anally probed!!!!

  • rtk_51

    It looks like a missile to me, and the Jane's missile expert says it looks like one to him.

  • badaboo

    Man what a bunch of paranoids !!

  • Bebe Target

    This resembles the photo taken just before the plane exploded off Long Island. Terrorists want SAMs, maybe they got them. Please don't insult us by saying it was a plane or an illusion . . . it was a missile.

  • badaboo

    The plane off Long Island blew up due to ignition of vapors in a partially filled fuel tank , that ignition caused by faulty wiring . No it wasn't a missle , nor was this most recent "sighting " a missle Take off your tin foil conspiracy hat .

  • liberty 4u2

    Everything in the sky is tracked. Where did this "missile" come down. Thought so. I watch the sky a bit. I have seen similar. Jets my friends. You better hope it wasn't a missile. Because if it was it would mean no one in our gov. has a clue what is going on. Oh wait…

  • Rick

    hello fellow americans…it was a classified test (missile/intercept) and Uncle Sam wants to keep it under the cover period. keeping america safe from threat requires pratice from behind closed doors … don't want to let the whole world know our capibilities.

    good nite good people and thank those who are keeping you /family safe.

  • intrcptr

    Folks, the argument is that a fixed-wing craft produced this contrail, and that atmospheric conditions created the illusion that is was a vertical exhaust plume.

    I'm sorry, living under the East Coast flyway, I've never seen a contrail that looks like it is converging with the ground. And I've never seen a turbofan produce that amount of condensed vapor, summer or winter.

    The physicist quoted is clearly not thinking straight. Rockets fly straight, missiles fly where you want them to. And I will admit to not having the best peepers out here, but I've never seen a vapor trail at 35 miles distance. Nor have I ever seen an aircraft with an exhaust flash at such range.

    That is an SRBM of some kind.

  • badaboo

    If it was our military testing something , why in the hell tell you about it ? if it was "woooo a terrorist dry run " , well that s pretty damn stupid , even for a jihadi ! Some people just dont think before opening their mouths .
    LOL…like biting the hook on that 200million-a-day presidential trip . .

    Just remember such imbeciles walk among us …and they can reproduce !!

  • Rolf Maslonka

    Arise, O LORD, let Your enemies be scattered. Let all those who rise up against You be put down today in Baghdad. Let their plans be foiled, their actions useless, and their minds confused. Put deep deep darkness all around them so they can’t even walk straight. And give the people of Baghdad peace today. In Jesus’ name. Amen