Mystery Missile Launch Appears To Be U.S. Navy Test [Update: Or, Maybe Just A Contrail]

The skies over Southern California were lit up last night by a mysterious missile test: (video above)

A mysterious missile launch off the southern California coast was caught by CBS affiliate KCBS’s cameras Monday night, and officials are staying tight-lipped over the nature of the projectile.

CBS station KFMB put in calls to the Navy and Air Force Monday night about the striking launch off the coast of Los Angeles, which was easily visible from the coast, but the military has said nothing about the launch.

KFMB showed video of the apparent missile to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Ellsworth, who is also a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, to get his thoughts.

“It’s spectacular… It takes people’s breath away,” said Ellsworth, calling the projectile, “a big missile”.

Magnificent images were captured by the KCBS news helicopter in L.A. around sunset Monday evening. The location of the missile was about 35 miles out to sea, west of L.A. and north of Catalina Island.

A Navy spokesperson told KFMB it wasn’t their missile. He said there was no Navy activity reported in the area Monday evening.

However, Barrett Brown at The League Of Ordinary Gentlemen draws attention to a post at Reddit that passes along an air traffic control warning that was issued yesterday:

NOTAM for LA.

KZLA LOS ANGELES A2832/10 – THE FOLLOWING RESTRICTIONS ARE REQUIRED DUE TO NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER WEAPONS DIVISION ACTIVATION OF W537. IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY, ALL NON-PARTICIPATING PILOTS ARE ADVISED TO AVOID W537. IFR TRAFFIC UNDER ATC JURISDICTION SHOULD ANTICIPATE CLEARANCE AROUND W537 AND CAE 1176. CAE 1155 WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. CAE 1316 & CAE 1318 WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. CAE 1177 WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. W537 ACTIVE, CAE 1176 CLOSED. SURFACE – FL390, 09 NOV 20:00 2010 UNTIL 10 NOV 01:00 2010. CREATED: 08 NOV 20:52 2010

So, pilots were warned to stay away from an area off the California coast around the time that the missile was seen, and the warning refers to the “Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.”

Logical conclusion? A U.S. military test of some kind, although why they’re being so secret about it is unclear.

Update: As some have noted in the comments, the time stamp on the NOTAM makes it unclear if it has anything to do with last night’s events, but there’s an alternative theory, contrails:

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FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Andy says:

    The problem is that the Notam wasn’t in effect when the launch took place, is north of the reported launch location and is of a type not associated with missile launches.

  2. All of which may indicate that this was a weapons test gone wrong, which may be why the Navy is keeping quiet about it

  3. Miguel says:

    The notice is for after the launch: “09 NOV 20:00 2010 UNTIL 10 NOV 01:00 2010”

  4. Andy says:

    Perhaps, but I don’t think the notam has anything to do with this event.

  5. For one thing, it’s unclear that the NOTAM time restriction applies to the entire warning or just part of it.

    For another, there’s discussion on reddit of a separate NOTAM without a time stamp. If that shows up, I’ll post it.

    And finally, let’s be honest, the most plausible explanation is that this was a military test of some kind, perhaps one that went wrong

  6. Andy says:

    Doug,

    Time restrictions are for the entire “warning” for a Notam. Events can have multiple notams, depending on what is going on, but that’s typically not the case for missile launches.

    I’ve looked up the notams myself and there aren’t any others of interest in effect at that time. There is nothing resembling anything associated with a missile launch. You can look them up yourself at this site.

    As to what it was, I’m waiting for more information.

  7. Andy says:

    Actually, my working theory is that it’s not a missile at all, but an airplane that looks like a missile.

  8. Andy says:
  9. Bruce Majors says:

    Breaking News:

    Barney Frank denies knowing his boyfriend was an international weapons dealer.