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Pentagon Can’t Explain ‘Missile’ Contrail Over SoCal Sky

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Sky 2 caught the trail of an apparent missile launch over the coast of California. (credit: CBS)

Sky 2 caught the trail of an apparent missile launch over the coast of California. (credit: CBS)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon said Tuesday it was trying to determine if a missile was launched Monday off the coast of
Southern California and, if so, who might have fired it.

Spokesmen for the Navy, Air Force, and other military organizations said they were looking into a video posted on the CBS News website that shows an object shooting across the sky and leaving a large contrail, or vapor trail, over the Pacific Ocean.

The video was shot by KCBS-TV’s Sky 2 helicopter.

“Nobody within the Department of Defense that we’ve reached out to has been able to explain what this contrail is, where it came from,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.

Lapan said that “all indications” are that the Department of Defense was not involved within the mystery object, and that the contrail might have been created by something flown by a private company.


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Normally any missile test would require notification so that mariners and pilots could be warned or air space closed, but that may not have been done in this case, Lapan said.

“It does seem implausible, and that’s why at this point the operative term is ‘unexplained’,” he said. “Nobody … within the Department of Defense that we’ve reached out to has been able to explain what this contrail is.”

Missile tests are common off Southern California. Launches are conducted from vessels and platforms on an ocean range west of Point Mugu.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, issued a statement jointly with the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, saying that the contrail was not the result of a foreign military launching a missile. It provided no further details.

“We can confirm that there is no threat to our nation, and from all indications this was not a launch by a foreign military,” the statement said. “We will provide more information as it becomes available.”

NORTHCOM is the U.S. defense command and NORAD is a U.S.-Canadian organization charged with protecting the U.S. from the threat of missiles or hostile aircraft.

FAA Spokesman Ian Gregor later released this statement:

“The FAA ran radar replays of a large area west of Los Angeles based on media reports of the location of a possible missile launch around 5pm Monday. The radar replayed did not reveal any fast moving unidentified targets in that area. The FAA also did not receive reports of any unusual sightings from pilots who were flying in the area Monday afternoon.  Finally the FAA did not approve any commercial space launches around the area Monday.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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