Mystery Missile Launches Off California Coast
A mysterious missile was launched in the Pacific Ocean off the southern California coast Monday night (Nov. 8), according to news reports.
CBS affiliate KCBS caught the launch on camera, but reported that U.S. military officials are "tight-lipped over the nature of the projectile."
In the video, the missile can be seen leaving a long exhaust plume as it soars into the evening sky. The missile launch occurred about 35 miles out to sea, west of Los Angeles and north of Catalina Island.
A Navy spokesperson told KFMB the mystery launch wasn't their missile and that no Navy activity had been reported in the area Monday evening.
An ?unmanned Delta 2 rocket did launch from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base late Friday (Nov. 5), but no other launches were scheduled, officials told CBS.
A report by MSNBC concurred. "Pentagon, Navy tell NBC they have no idea who launched Monday night's missile off Calif. coast. 'We're checking,' frustrated officials say," MSNBC posted on its @breakingnews Twitter page.
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. Ellsworth speculated that the missile could possibly have been a demonstration of American military might timed to coincide with Obama's tour of Asia.
"It could be a test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a submarine ? to demonstrate, mainly to Asia, that we can do that," Ellsworth told CBS.
Ellsworth told KFMB that similar tests to tout our military might were carried in the Atlantic Ocean when the Soviet Union existed, though he doesn't think an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has ever been tested by the United States over the Pacific Ocean.
The U.S. military does, however, conduct missile and other weapons tests over the Pacific Ocean that are publicly announced.
On Oct. 29, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted a drill with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in a joint test of ballistic missile defense intercept capabilities.
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Jeanna Bryner is the Managing Editor of LiveScience, a sister site to SPACE.com.
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