WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials are scrambling to explain a possible missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles, but a day after a vapor trail was caught on tape the incident remains a mystery, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.
The apparent missile launch was caught on tape by a KCBS news helicopter on Monday evening. Video shows a billowing contrail apparently rising from the water about 35 miles west of Los Angeles and north of Catalina Island. It is not clear whether it comes from land or sea.
“So far we’ve come up empty with any explanation,” Colonel David Lapan told reporters. “We’re talking to other parts of the U.S. government. We’re doing everything we can to try to figure out if anybody has any knowledge of what this event may have been.”
Robert Ellsworth, a former NATO ambassador and former deputy defense secretary, reviewed the video with KCBS and described the condensation trail as “pretty big” and not likely to be from a Tomahawk cruise missile.
Pentagon spokesman Lapan said it was still not clear what caused the contrail.
“It was clear from the video that there was some type of object traversing the skies that created a contrail,” he said. “I don’t know that anybody has evaluated it to determine exactly what it was.”
He said the Missile Defense Agency, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Northern Command, the Navy and Air Force all had been consulted.
“Sometimes we don’t find these things out in a timely manner. But right now all indications are that it was not DOD involvement in this launch,” Lapan said.
Ordinarily a sea launch would require several layers of notification to airmen and mariners and closure of air space in the area, he said. A commercial missile launch would require similar steps.
“None of that right now is evident,” Lapan said, adding that there was no indication it was launched by an adversary.
“‘Unexplained’ is the best word to use right now until we can gather more information,” Lapan said.
Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Anthony Boadle