Pentagon Can't Explain "Missile" off California

This image captured by a KCBS News helicopter shows an unidentified projectile launched from an unknown point in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Los Angeles Nov. 8, 2010. KCBS

The Pentagon Tuesday said it was trying to determine if a missile was launched Monday off the coast of Southern California and who might have launched it.

Spokesmen for the Navy, Air Force, Defense Department and North American Aerospace Defense Command said they were looking into a video posted on the CBS News website that appears to show a rocket or some other object shooting up into the sky and leaving a large contrail over the Pacific Ocean.

The video was shot by a CBS affiliate KCBS' helicopter, the station said Tuesday.

"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. "So far, we've come up empty with any explanation."

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Lapan said officials are talking to the Air Force, Navy and NORAD as well as civilian authorities who control and monitor air space.

"Right now, all indications are that there was not (Department of Defense) involvement in this," Lapan said, adding that some object might have been launched by a private company.

Scroll down to watch video showing the launch.

The FAA told CBS News that they ran radar replays of a large area west of Los Angeles based on media reports of the location of a possible missile launch, but they did not reveal any fast moving unidentified targets in that area. The FAA also did not receive any reports of any unusual sightings from pilots in the area.

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.

CBS station KFMB showed video of the apparent missile to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Ellsworth, who is also a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, to get his thoughts.

"It's spectacular… It takes people's breath away," said Ellsworth, calling the projectile, "a big missile".

Officials had no information to make them suspect that the action was taken by any U.S. adversary.

"At this point, until we know more information about what it may have been, there is not alarm," Lapan said. "But that could change depending on what we find out."

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