Dodging a Missile

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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A news helicopter flying over Los Angeles on Monday night caught more than the usual skyline shots and traffic backlogs. While the chopper’s camera rolled, a plume of smoke and possibly flame rose up from the horizon and arched out over the Pacific Ocean, from a position the news crew estimated to be approximately 35 miles from America’s largest city on the West coast. While there has been no confirmation from the military, speculation quickly centered on an alarming possibility — that a ballistic missile had been fired within sight of the U.S. mainland … one that the military reports no knowledge of.

Since the possible missile launch was first reported late on Monday, there has been a chorus of confused responses from various U.S. government agencies. NASA reports no launches from Vandenberg Air Force base since last week, with no further planned until December. The Federal Flight Administration claims that nothing was detected on local radar and that no commercial rocket launches were authorized. The joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Command, and the United States Northern Command, will say only that they are investigating the reported incident and do not believe there to be a threat to American national security. The Navy said tersely that the launch was not related to their forces.

The Pentagon has no explanation, but at least one official has said anonymously that the consensus of the government is that the apparent missile launch was in fact the contrail of a commercial aircraft distorted by an atmospheric optical illusion. But even this is apparently a conclusion drawn from negative evidence — since the military can’t determine what the object actually was, they are concluding that it was nothing at all, just an illusion. That might well be true, but won’t do much to undo the confusion of the past day.

As American television played the video of the alleged missile climbing and news websites speculated as to what could have caused it, it was disturbing how little evidence high-ranked officials had to offer. It is disturbing enough to ponder the fact that an unknown force would be able to fire a missile in Los Angeles’ backyard. Even more disturbing is that the entire United States government and its mighty armed forces don’t seem to have the slightest idea what happened, or even if anything happened at all. Whether the video shows an optically distorted contrail or a missile’s plume, surely, there is a simple answer. A missile was launched or not. Why did it take a full day before a Pentagon official would anonymously speculate that it was nothing?

Even if this incident is revealed to have been non-threatening, the confusion concerning whether or not an incident had even occurred is troubling because of just how dangerous this situation can be. Both Russia and China field ballistic missile submarines capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles from beneath the waves. If such a missile attack were to be undertaken that close to the shores of the United States, the missile could reach its target within five minutes, far faster than the American military could confirm the attack, calculate its target and probable national origin, and notify the President so that a counter-attack could be initiated.

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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.

  • http://dietindelivery.com 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 hard..it is almost there.

  • WIDTAP

    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 http://survivalism.blogspot.com/2009/05/prepare-n

  • 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 …..you 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