Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

“Mystery missile” was probably an aircraft, government says


A Pentagon official said that an examination of radar data, satellite imagery and other sophisticated monitoring technology by multiple U.S. government agencies has turned up no conclusive evidence that a missile was fired in that vicinity and at that time.

Even U.S. agencies that monitor launches of rockets by private individuals or companies had no information of a launch, he said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said that FAA records showed commercial airliners were flying in the area at the time, and that most government experts were coming to the conclusion that the condensation trail was caused by an aircraft. "The best we can tell, it was probably caused by an aircraft," the official said.

John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, a website for military policy research, agrees. He said the idea that the government would carry out a secret launch illuminated at sunset, within view of 8 million Angelenos, is hard to believe.

"If it were secret, we'd do it at night in Alaska where only the caribou could see it," Pike said. "It's an airplane contrail, pure and simple."

The vehicle is not moving fast enough and does not have the trajectory characteristics of a rocket, he said. The reason people think it's a rocket is because it's an optical illusion, he said.

The plane is coming over the horizon, straight at the camera. Because of the angle and the lighting at sunset it appears as a rocket rising, he said.

"I've seen a lot of rocket and airplane contrails over the years," he said. "What I saw was an airplane contrail."

-- David S. Cloud at the Pentagon and W.J. Hennigan in Los Angeles

Photo: A KCBS helicopter cameraman captured footage of a mysterious missile-like projectile Monday evening. Credit: KCBS-TV

Comments () | Archives (132)

In words of Col. Potter, "Horse Hockey!"

I'm no conspiracy nut, but that is NO airplane contrail. Airplanes don't go straight up from the ground. And if it were an airplane, it needs a new muffler.

The state-run Los Angeles Times news service reports that government officials claim this is just an aircraft and nothing to worry about.

No questions asked. Anyone else buy it?

This is most likely a short range Scud type "missile test" fired from a North Korean submarine or small ship. They have done this many times before. The last such "missile test" was on the Fourth of July 2009 in the Sea of Japan. This is a message to the United States that North Korea has the capability to hit Los Angeles with a biological weapon, chemical weapon or a dirty bomb. It is very hard to detect a conventional submarine near the surface in a busy shipping area like LA.

Dear Mr. Pike. Having grown up right by LAX, I have never seen a plane contrail that looks like that. Not saying that it isn't a plane contrail, but it looks a lot more like the contrails that the Delta rocket launches out of Vandenberg leave in the sky. Planes coming from across the Pacific do not normally leave contrails that appear to begin at the horizon, at least I have never seen one. Also, the head of the contrail looks suspiciously like a rocket engine. Generally, planes leaving contails in the sky do not glow brightly although this could also be a reflection from the setting sun.

That's a lame attempt at obfuscation.

Delta II rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base about 100 miles up the coast from us. It was carrying an Italian satellite destined to observe, photograph and report on the Mediterranean basin.

Oh my... really? That's the explanation? I think the keyword in this story is "probably." I don't think we've heard the end of this.

Dude, LAX is right there. If this where an airplane we would see it alot more often. What a bunch of BS.

@DG3, Have you looked at a globe lately? Notice how the surface of the earth is curved?


That's the contrail of an ICBM, obviously from a foreign (Chinese, N. Korean or Russian) nuclear powered submarine to humiliate President Obama, the Navy and the US.

DoD, Navy and Airforce declared that they would never launch so close to a city.

Timing: The launch occured while Obama is in Asia and at a moment that the US have a huge dispute with China.

I don't believe it's launched from a US submarine. If the US wants to show its power it would launch a test somewhere between Japan and Guam or Hawaii.

If DoD and Pentagon don't know where it came from or where it is headed then it's a security issue.

Really? They can't possibly be serious. The "contrail" clearly comes off sea level, is much too thick for a plane, has a hot spot as the source, and is hauling ass. Airplane contrail....that's laughable. Either it's a test, some event they don't want to admit to, or some snodgrass pulled a "what happens if I press this button?" maneuver. My guess is this is an unplanned event or the "authorities" would have a much better answer (even if it was untrue) than an airplane contrail. Look for better answers to come as they come up with something halfway plausible.

i live in LA, and i have seen many rockets fired from our north, vandenberg airforce base. i have seen many military jets and copters over the pacific, this was no jet. i saw this coming from about 30 miles west of santa monica, which would place it around nichols island, a military base used for testing….. this was no jet, and it was going way too fast…


DG3, given that the earth is round, this is an entirely normal explanation.

what a joke. Please come-up with some better explanation. The American people deserve to know what's we'r paying for.

The contrail does not go straight up. It is an optical illusion. The weather conditions late yesterday were very odd- it was quite chilly and windy. The contrail has less to do with "needing a new muffler" and more to do with atmospheric conditions. Some days contrails are clearly visible and other days there are not.

Swamp gas, I tellya! If it was an airplane they would have known who it was, and where they came from and where they were going. Pretty fast airplane. And if an airplane, why isn't this type of contrail seen more often?

Notice that the large low-altitude portion of the trail, referred to in bureaucrat-speak as a "contrail" (condensation trail), exhibits different patterns along its length as would be expected from rocket exhaust. The lower portion shows distinct shearing effects due to wind at the lower altitude which exhibit relatively little effect higher up, all of which is consistent with the expected effects of an altitude-confined wind stratum.

Further, the fact that the plume is jaggedly deformed -- rather than simply having dissipated fluff-like -- also suggests relatively heavy particulates consistent with oxidization (burning propellant) and not the usual water-vapor condensation seen issuing from jet aircraft at (usually) high altitude. Therefore, the trajectory of its source is angled substantially towards the vertical to a degree exceeding that achievable by any aircraft.

This is no aircraft. It's likely a submarine-launched missile, one with which we Fleet Ballistic Missile Submariners are acquainted. This one carries a message for potential adventurers (Hello, can you hear us now, China?).

DG3, it's not coming straight up from the ground. It's coming at the viewer. It's clearly too slow to be a rocket.

Like DG3, I'm not a conspiracy nut! I don't live in fear of our Government and high-fructose cornsyrup. But, I do read and think for myself. This was not a jet, it looks like every shuttle or rocket launch that I've ever seen. The contrail is long, huge and thick - jets don't leave trails like that, not even in sub freezing temperatures. I'm confident that missile came from a submarine. The problem is - the Russians and Chinese wouldn't do it, however, the North Koreans, who shouldn't be able to do it, seem to be the prime candidates for such an audacious act. They did warn the US against participating in joint wargames with the South Koreans recently. This would be a powerful [but stupid] response. we shouldn't sweep this under the carpet and let people dismiss it as a joke, a jet, or a plume of swamp gas.

The contrail explanation does not answer why there was a bright illumination, like a flame, emanating from the object.

You all should probably apply for jobs at CNN. You have all the qualifications. No data, no knowledge, endless ignorant speculation. The more spectacular the better. When this is all shaken out, I believe there will be a LOT less there than apparently met the eye.

These are not the droids you're looking for...move along

"The plane is coming over the horizon, straight at the camera. Because of the angle and the lighting at sunset it appears as a rocket rising, he said."

Nope. Had it been coming straight at the camera, it would have eventually passed over the camera. It did not.

1 2 3 4 5 6 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: