A missile was, allegedly, fired off the California coast, near Los Angeles monday night, to some consternation.
It was most likely a US Navy launch of a realistic target missile for an Anti-Ballistic Missile test underway over the last few days with the Japanese Navy.
It was, most certainly, despite any denials and claims from the Navy, a US Navy missile, probably being fired as part of an interesting ongoing exercise.
NBC video with video from CBS traffic helicopter.
Notice to Mariners, 45/2010 has a clear warning:
434/10(18). EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC. CALIFORNIA. MISSILES. 1. INTERMITTENT MISSILE FIRING OPERATIONS 0001Z TO 2359Z
DAILY MONDAY THRU SUNDAY IN THE NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER SEA RANGE. THE MAJORITY OF MISSILE FIRINGS TAKE PLACE 1400Z TO 2359Z AND 0001Z TO 0200Z DAILY MONDAY THRU FRIDAY IN AREA BOUND BY
34-02N 119-04W, 33-52N 119-06W, 33-29N 118-37W, 33-20N 118-37W, 32-11N 120-16W, 31-54N 121-35W, 35-09N 123-39W, 35-29N 123-00W, 35-57N 121-32W, 34-04N 119-04W.
2. VESSELS MAY BE REQUESTED TO ALTER COURSE WITHIN THE ABOVE AREA DUE TO FIRING OPERATIONS AND ARE REQUESTED TO CONTACT PLEAD CONTROL ON 5081.5 MHZ (5080 KHZ) OR 3238.5 KHZ (3237 KHZ) SECONDARY OR 156.8 MHZ (CH 16) OR 127.55 MHZ BEFORE ENTERING THE ABOVE BOUNDARIES AND MAINTAIN CONTINUOUS GUARD WHILE WITHIN THE RANGE.
3. VESSELS INBOUND AND OUTBOUND FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PORTS WILL CREATE THE LEAST INTERFERENCE TO FIRING OPERATIONS DURING THE SPECIFIC PERIODS, AS WELL AS ENHANCE THE VESSEL’S
SAFETY WHEN PASSING THROUGH THE VICINITY OF THE SEA RANGE IF THEY WILL TRANSIT VIA THE SANTA BARBARA CHANNEL AND WITHIN NINE MILES OFFSHORE VICINITY OF POINT MUGU OR CROSS THE AREA SOUTHWEST OF SAN NICOLAS ISLAND BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
4. CANCEL NAVAREA XII 427/10.
warning is repeated in 46/2010, and they note missile firing activity off Kauai also.
Approximate location of “Intermittent missile firing zone”.
This is almost certainly part of an exercise underway with the Japanese Navy.
Last week a missile fired from Kauai was intercepted by a Japanese ABM ship,
successfully, according to reports.
The exercise probably followed through with more challenging targets.
A Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile from further away would be suitable, so someone fired one from a Navy Firing Range, which had a warning already out on it.
By design, the livefire exercise is a “surprise” – they don’t cheat by telling the target when the missile is arriving, or from where, so therefore no notice to locals.
PS: contrail science (currently down from overload) has a nice article on how aircraft contrails can look like missile launches when the sun is low and there is perspective foreshortening
this may well be the explanation, but I am a little bit skeptical, for a couple of reasons:
on the video, when they zoom in, you see a bright spot at the tip of the contrail which looks more like rocket exhaust than specular reflection, to my amateur eye;
and, the track looks more like videos of solid fuel exhaust than condensation contrails, again to my untrained eye
– the low speed, quoted as evidence against it being a missile is consistent if it is a solid fuel rocket in boost phase and going sharply away from the viewer rather than towards as with a contrail.
anyway – the Navy may not have fired any missiles that night, but they did warn in advance that they might do so – there is also, in the same NotMa, a warning of gunnery exerises in Sea of Japan – which would be consistent with a target area with a Japanese ABM destroyer looking to shoot it down