Scroll down for updates.
So who was it? When the KCBS crew showed video of the launch to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth, he speculated that it could have been launched by a submarine.
But why would a US Navy boomer launch a ballistic missile so close to shore? This is the kind of stuff they’d test way out in the Pacific, somewhere between Hawaii and California, or between Alaska and Hawaii. The consequences of a failed launch could be hundreds of civilian casualties. It doesn’t sound like something the Navy would do.
So if it wasn’t the US Navy, who was it?
UPDATE: The Pentagon is still denying any knowledge of a planned operation. This story suggests that the launch could have been a mistake. A mistake?
UPDATE II: Via FoxNews.com:
Col. Dave Lapan said he is not able to concur with an official from North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command who told Fox News earlier that there was "no threat to the homeland."
Lapan said the military doesn't know exactly what the so-called mystery missile was so can't say it's harmless.
Lapan said it does not appear that whatever was flying was part of a regularly scheduled missile test. He noted that before a missile test, notifications are sent to mariners and airmen. This does not appear to be the case here.
At this point, the military is working only with video taken from the local news camera, and NORAD and Northcom apparently were not able to detect the contrail on their own.
It appears from the video, Lapan said, the object was launched from the water and not U.S. soil, though at this point there is no way to be certain.
UPDATE III: Via Fox News Channel, there is a statement from US Northern Command. The statement affirms that there is (or was) no threat to the US “homeland,” and that NORTHCOM/NORAD does not believe the launch was from a foreign military. Link when available. Still waiting for this link. Tweet, or comment if you get it before I do.
UPDATE IV: Closing Velocity provides some geographical context to the area. The Navy has used this are extensively in the past for testing.
UPDATE V: Capt. Gary Nash (USN-Ret), speaking on Fox News Channel. “It’s being disingenuous to say that ‘we don’t know what it was.’ The systems that we have to detect and track these objects is solid.” Nash is leaning towards it being a US Navy SLBM. So are others, in light of the fact that the US Navy closed the airspace.
UPDATE VI: This “Notice to Airmen,” or NOTAM, is what’s referenced the previous update. However, note the time and date. The Navy is closing that airspace today, not yesterday or last night.
UPDATE VII: “Plausible explanation:” Astronomer and launch-tracker geek dude at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says it was probably an optical illusion caused by a plane. This site concurs that what appeared to be a missile launch was actually a contrail formed by an incoming aircraft.