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Strategic Command Issues Statement on Trident Test that Freaked Out the West Coast

trident_saltonsea
Photographer Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwell created this animated GIF from 30-plus still images she took with her Nikon camera Nov. 7.

With images like these, it’s no wonder California — not to mention the Twittersphere — freaked out Saturday evening when an announced test  of a submarine-launched Trident missile lit up the evening sky.

Photographer Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam and her wife were on the shore of California’s desolate Salton Sea taking long exposures and time lapses with three different cameras when they witnessed what they thought at the time was a chemical or nuclear weapon detonating over Los Angeles two and a half hours to the west.

“We thought everyone in L.A. was going to die,” Tinsley Fitzwilliam said.

Fat chance. The pyrotechnics Tinsley Fitzwilliam and thousands of other casual skywatchers observed Saturday was the first of two Trident 2 D5 missiles with dummy warheads the U.S. Navy test fired between Saturday evening and Monday afternoon. The big, bright flash of light some mistook for a detonation,  missile intercept or UFO  is actually the result of the solid-fueled Trident missile jettisoning one of its three stages.

In a statement issued Monday night, U.S. Navy Adm. Ceil Haney, head of Strategic Command, described Saturday’s test  flight — one of 156 such tests since  1989 of the Lockheed Martin-built strategic “demonstrate[s] the readiness of our nation’s nuclear triad and serve to assure our allies and deter our potential adversaries.”

The test occurred the same day U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, called out Russia for engaging in “challenging activities” at sea, in the air, in space and cyberspace.

Monday’s test, conducted in the afternoon, caused far less brouhaha than Saturday’s test, which was widely documented on Twitter and social media by unsuspecting  skywatchers as far south a Mexico.

Strategic Command does not announce Trident tests ahead of time in order to not tip off  U.S. adversaries who might otherwise be watching.

Among the select few not caught off guard by the test were five U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who were onboard the submarine, the USS Kentucky, to watched Saturday’s launch with  Haney and others.

U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), center above, onboard the USS Kentucky submarine to observe a Nov. 7 test launch of a Trident 2 5A missile. Credit: U.S. Navy/ Byron C. Linder
U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), center above, onboard the USS Kentucky submarine to observe a Nov. 7 test launch of a Trident 2 5A missile. Credit: U.S. Navy/ Byron C. Linder

SpaceNews.com

Source: Space News

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Strategic Command Issues Statement on Trident Test that Freaked Out the West Coast

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