While I am skeptical of a missile launch going un-reported, and various very serious experts suggest the idea of an aircraft contrail from various angles depending on the perspective (with the news helicopter getting the most interesting obviously); a missile could very likely be a reality. This is a Notice to Mariners from NtM 45-2010 which is a joint publication by the National Geo Spatial Inteligence Agency, National Ocean Service, and US Coast Guard.
However, with the NTM in effect, the US Navy would at least have known of the launch, and NORAD would certainly have tracked it. Could they be denying it for some reason? Certainly, however I believe the Contrail Science Overflow blog (http://uncinus.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/4/) has one of the most researched pieces of the bunch.
III-1.7NM 45/10 SECTION III
433/10(19). NORTH PACIFIC. HAWAII. MISSILES. 1. HAZARDOUS OPERATIONS 290130Z TO 290700Z OCT,
ALTERNATE 300200Z TO 300730Z AND 310230Z TO 310800Z OCT IN AREA BOUND BY
(221414Z OCT 2010)
(230926Z OCT 2010)
(240828Z OCT 2010)
22-00N 159-46W, 23-07N 161-49W, 29-56N 170-20W, 35-34N 164-15W, 31-30N 161-28W, 24-11N 160-10W, 22-10N 159-44W.
22-07N 160-25W, 24-25N 162-27W, 32-47N 169-47W, 36-03N 162-31W, 27-00N 162-00W, 22-39N 159-36W,
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 310900Z OCT.
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.
The Federation of American Scientists Blog (http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2010/11/mystery-missile-this-question-can-be-answered.php#more-4135) rightly points out that with only 20 seconds of the clip from the CBS helicopter, its hard for even missile experts to accurately determine what it was exactly. However John Pike (http://www.globalsecurity.org/)and other experts also point out how slow the object was moving leaving them to conclude (based on the 20 second video) that it is most likely an airplane (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/11/mystery-missile-is-probably-a-jet/).
I'm going to go with John Pike and the Contrail Science folks here. Why didn't the military know what it was? Well, they likely didn't track anything unusual because all flights were following plan, and perhaps they didn't launch anything either. Our satellites, and those of Russia would have detected a missile launch. Russia certainly would have been on top of informing the press our Military couldn't figure out its own missiles! Obviously, it could be either considering the how short the clip is, but I'll go with 70% plane, 25% rocket, 5% something off the wall, on this one. However, with that recent power failure in our nuclear missile system (glitch, or malicious intent? Only our intelligence and nuclear forces know for certain http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?f=1001&sc=tw&storyId=130846510), and our President in Asia talking with India and the Republic of Korea; a headbutt from the Chinese and/or North Korea isn't out of the realm of possibility.
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