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The Vela Incident: Who Nuked the South Atlantic in 1979?

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posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:29 AM
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In the early hours of September 22nd 1979 US satellite Vela 6911 detected a pattern of intense flashes in a remote part of the Southern Hemisphere where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Almost simultaneously a muffled, dull thud was picked up by the US Navy's undersea Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). All indications were that a low yield nuclear weapon had been detonated halfway between the south coast of Africa and Antarctica.

No nation state has ever claimed responsibility for testing a nuclear weapon at that time and location.

Over a decade earlier, in 1963, a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, Outer Space and Under Water had been adopted by all the major nuclear powers. US satellite Vela 6911 was part of a matrix of global satellites put into orbit to help enforce this ‘Partial Test Ban Treaty’.
The lifespan of each satellite was estimated to be only eighteen months. However the hardware was still successfully detecting detonations many years later. Vela 6911 had already accurately tracked 12 atomic detonations before the mysterious incident in 1979. The whole satellite network had yet to record a single false positive for any nuclear weapon signature.

One problem in studying the data was that the design of the Vela satellite, and a distant orbit of 70,000 miles from Earth, meant the exact location of the event could only be narrowed down to a 3,000 mile radius. Available data from sensors suggested the Vela incident occurred in the vast region of the ocean between the tiny and isolated Bouvet Island and the uninhabited Prince Edward Island (belonging to South Africa).

The CIA studied the signal and concluded that a low-yield 2 to 4 kiloton nuclear device had probably been detonated over the Southern Atlantic Ocean between South Africa and Antarctica. No responsibility was ever admitted by any nation for conducting a covert test. However US intelligence had compiled reports with a list of the most likely suspects.

The Evidence

In the aftermath of the incident various other indicators surfaced to substantiate that a nuclear weapons test had taken place.

• A doctor in Western Australia claimed to have found trace amounts of iodine-131 in the thyroid glands of local sheep.

• The Arecibo ionospheric observatory and radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected an anomalous ionospheric wave on 22 September 1979, moving southeast to the northwest. No such event had been recorded previously.

• Syowa Base in Antarctica reported a flash of aurora like light just a few seconds after the Vela event, reinforcing the possibility of an EMP burst.

• Fission products had been detected in rain water in New Zealand. (Note that this later proved to be a false alarm).

• The U.S. Air Force dispatched several WC-135B surveillance aircraft to the area with no result.

• Detectors worldwide reported no increase of radioactive fallout

First Conclusions

In the United States, the Carter Administration initially concluded that the event was a nuclear test. President Carter even made an entry in his diary of February 1980 saying :

"...we have a growing belief among our scientists that the Israelis did indeed conduct a nuclear test explosion in the ocean near the southern end of South Africa...."


Jack Ruina was placed in charge of a panel of experts by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The panel, somewhat cautiously, declared that while a nuclear explosion could not be ruled out, the satellite signal was probably not a nuclear test but an anomaly caused by sunlight reflected into the sensors from debris produced by a small meteoroid hitting the satellite.

However these claims have also long been doubted by some commentators in the belief that the panel’s finding were politically motivated.

Developments

In later years, a few snippets of information were revealed. In the early 1990s, with the ending of apartheid, the South Africans released new information regarding their development of nuclear weapons. Documents revealed that their first functional nuclear weapon wasn't constructed until November 1979, around two months after the Vela incident.

In 1993, then President F.W. de Klerk admitted that South Africa had dismantled it’s 6 nuclear weapons before the first multi-cultural elections during April 1994. Although no mention to the Vela incident was provided.

Rumours that France or Taiwan may have tested a nuclear weapon secretly also circulated in the years after the incident. But evidence for either case remains circumstantial and vague.

Dieter Gerhardt, a convicted Soviet spy, claimed in 1994 that he’d learned through ‘unofficial’ channels that the Vela incident was the outcome of "Operation Phoenix," a joint Israeli/South African nuclear weapons test (possibly a neutron bomb). It was supposedly conducted under the cover of bad weather so the explosion could not be easily detected. However, Gerhardt claimed that a change in the weather meant the Americans were able to detect the signature flashes.

Israel is not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to confirm whether it has possession of nuclear weapons.However in 1986 a former Israeli nuclear technician named Mordechai Vanunu provided The Times newspaper (UK) with proof and details of Israel’s atomic weapons. Vanunu was shortly afterwards abducted by undercover Israeli Mossad agents, and imprisoned for treason.

>>continues below>>




posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:29 AM
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Contemporary Thinking

More recently, a re-evaluation of the Vela Incident has been the subject of a “Science & Global Security Article” article. It concludes that the Vela incident was consistent with a nuclear explosion and the likelihood that a weapons test took place.



On 22 September 1979 two optical sensors on U.S. satellite Vela 6911 detected a double-flash of light that appeared characteristic of an atmospheric nuclear explosion conducted over the southern Atlantic or Indian Ocean. It became known as the Vela Incident, Event 747, or Alert 747.

An anomaly between the amplitude of the two signals during the second pulse led a U.S. government expert panel established to assess the event to conclude in mid-1980 that a more likely explanation was the impact of a small meteoroid on the satellite, the debris from which reflected sunlight into the sensors' field of view. No model was presented to support the contention, and a similar anomaly--known as background modulation--was a given for the second pulse of all confirmed explosions detected by Vela, though beginning later. Nonetheless, this event has remained the subject of intense debate.

This article reviews the evidence and presents an updated analysis of the original Vela signal based on recently declassified literature and on modern knowledge of interplanetary dust and hyper velocity impact.

Given the geometry of the satellite, and that the bulk of the surface comprised solar panels, much of the debris from any collision would be carried away from the sensors' field of view. Thus, a meteoroid collision appears much less likely than previously assumed. The double flash is instead consistent with a nuclear explosion, albeit detected by an aged satellite for which background modulation was abnormal and/or commenced earlier, also seen in post-event system tests. A companion paper to be published in 2018 presents radionuclide and hydro-acoustic evidence supporting the conclusion that the Vela Incident was a nuclear weapon test explosion.

Source (free pdf) : Global Security


Whodunit?

So if 2018 contemporary studies now indicate that the Vela incident was indeed a nuclear weapons test then whodunit? States like Brazil, Argentina, Iraq and Iran lacked the fissile materials at the time and so were discounted in intelligence reports leaving a number of suspects.

South Africa

A major suspect in this mystery, South Africa was considered, as the most likely candidate due to the area where the incident occurred. However intelligence on the matter remains inconclusive and evidence suggests that South Africa did not have the capability to test a weapon until two months later.

Israel

The other prime suspect. US Intelligence assessments had concluded Israel had its own nuclear capability before the Vela incident. There is also suspicion that South Africa and Israel had co-operated on a clandestine nuclear test. A number of commentators believe that the United States deliberately obscured facts over the whole matter in order to avoid complicating relations with both South Africa and Israel.

The Soviet Union

The DIA reported that the test might have been a Soviet test. Although this would have been in violation of the Partial Test Ban Treaty the Soviets had carried tests in 1959 in violation of a previous treaty. The political ramifications of such a test would have been a huge risk. But the DIA also felt that such a test close to “an unwitting proxy state” could have proven disruptive and the Soviets may have gained some political capital from the incident.

India

India had already completed a nuclear test in 1974 (dubbed Smiling Buddha). An Indian weapons test was considered. The Indian Navy had the range to operate in the far southern ocean. However, this was dismissed as impractical and unnecessary .India had signed and ratified the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963. India had also fully complied with the treaty and so it was concluded that India was unlikely to be hiding its nuclear capabilities.

Pakistan

Pakistan began developing nuclear weapons in the early 1970s as a result of various conflicts with its neighbour India. An intelligence memorandum requested by the United States National Security Council and entitled "The 22 September 1979 Event" analyzed the possibility of Pakistan wanting to prove its nuclear explosive technology in secret. However the consensus was that in late 1979 Pakistan did not possess the necessary knowledge or materials to conduct such a test.

France

It was considered that the ‘flash’ detected was just to the west of the French-owned Kerguelen Islands and that the French were testing a small neutron bomb or other small tactical nuclear weapons. Evidence for this is sparse and France was not considered a serious suspect.

Taiwan

Rumours once abounded that Taiwan was testing a nuclear weapon. But this has little to go on beyond hearsay and guesswork. Taiwan began to develop a nuclear weapons program in the late 1960s. Pressure from the United States meant that in 1976 Taiwan had agreed to dismantle their program. However in 1977 Taiwan was placed on a list of "insecure" nuclear threshold states—(those with a technical capability and motivation to develop nuclear weapons). Yet the evidence for Taiwan being responsible is also sparse.

Conclusion & Speculation

At the time there were strong suspicions that Israel, probably with South African assistance, tested a nuclear weapon over the South Atlantic in late 1979. Just two months later South Africa successfully tested its own nuclear weapon. Coincidence?

The Carter Administration had recently secured the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in March of 1979 (pic right). So there was probably no political willpower to cause trouble over the Vela Incident by pointing fingers.

Both Israel and South Africa were what could be described as two ‘problem’ states at the time. Yet Israel holds an inordinate amount of influence over the United States Government. South Africa, by the late 1970s, was a pariah state under apartheid rule. However South Africa also remained within the American sphere of influence.

It seems likely that South Africa and Israel co-operated on a nuclear weapons test in the South Atlantic on 22nd Sept 1979. It would also seem that the Carter Administration in the USA chose to turn a blind eye to suit the political climate at the time.



edit on 14/2/2018 by mirageman because: tidy up



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:36 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

Very nice post ...

I covered this in a thread a good few years back, but your post is so much more in-depth.

I still think South Africa and the Israelis were in this one together ... South Africa providing the support and the Israelis providing the bang.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:36 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

This was either Israel testing a small bomb or was just a meteor like Tunguska but smaller.
I didn't think there was any real evidence of a nuclear test though.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:37 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

Could it have been an E.T. UFO entering The Earths atmosphere and exploding ?



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:40 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

and forget about sanctions - all kinds of countries were dealing with us under table. I was in Anti Aircraft and we were using Swiss made 35mm cannons with the FlederMaus radar system. We even had Swiss scientists working with us one day when we were testing the auto tracking between the cannons and the radar.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:48 AM
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originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: mirageman

This was either Israel testing a small bomb or was just a meteor like Tunguska but smaller.
I didn't think there was any real evidence of a nuclear test though.


The new report from Science & Global Security is dismissive of a 'meteoroid striking the satellite theory' that was originally thought (or promoted) to be the cause.


..Given the geometry of the satellite, and that the bulk of the surface comprised solar panels, much of the debris from any collision would be carried away from the sensors’ field of view. Thus, a meteoroid collision appears much
less likely than previously assumed. The double flash is instead consistent with a nuclear explosion


No one seems to have considered a meteor burst above the ocean. Obviously there is evidence of a nuclear explosion. None of it is 100% conclusive though. So make your own mind up.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:53 AM
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Why does it have to be "nukes"?

More like a smallish rock like the one entered over Russia.

Here comes the Boom...



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:54 AM
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originally posted by: alldaylong
a reply to: mirageman

Could it have been an E.T. UFO entering The Earths atmosphere and exploding ?



That would be highly speculative as no extra-terrestrial spacecraft has ever been proven to have visited Earth. You'd also have to tie that in with the physics that match the signature of a nuclear explosion. I'd say you'd need to explore all the more likely explanations before jumping to that conclusion.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:55 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

I'm aware of this case and the links to South Africa but the $64,000 question is...was it a nuclear test by proxy?

There are few places on the planet that nukes can be tested 'safely' because of weather conditions and sparse population and those include Jackass Flats, Woomera, and tah duh...South Africa.

However the latter might've been a proxy for Israel as European agencies may have detected a test that was too close to home, but I'm great at throwing darts blindfolded so don't take my word.

edit on 14-2-2018 by Thecakeisalie because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 07:58 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

don't forget that the Vela satellites were specifically designed to detect nuclear detonations. The chances of this not being a detonation is very low.
South Africa was definitely the beneficiary of the test results here - our nuclear program moved rapidly forward shortly after this.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 08:01 AM
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a reply to: intrptr

because a nuclear detonation has a specific "signature". This signature is what the 12 Vela satellites were designed to look for. They were "watchdog" satellites.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 08:11 AM
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originally posted by: deltaalphanovember
a reply to: intrptr

because a nuclear detonation has a specific "signature". This signature is what the 12 Vela satellites were designed to look for. They were "watchdog" satellites.

That watchdog system can and has been fooled by space rocks. I read an article about it in the 80s.

Bright flashes of light, loud booms, high in the atmosphere?

ReCheck your 'specifics'.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 08:36 AM
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originally posted by: intrptr

Why does it have to be "nukes"?

More like a smallish rock like the one entered over Russia.

Here comes the Boom...

I’ll bet Tigra and Bunny loved that one. (Wow, I’m on a roll this morning)



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 09:00 AM
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a reply to: mirageman

An excellent thread Mirage. There is one aspect that I find confusing.

Whilst any administration or nation might have been able to silence a few nation states reporting fall out, the cold war situation makes it virtually impossible that both sides could be kept silent.

If such a test were carried out by a Western power or proxy, then the Soviet block would detect the fallout and would be highly motivated to publicise the breaking of the treaty. Just as the West would be keen to expose any Soviet testing in violation.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 09:11 AM
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a reply to: mirageman
There's ALSO the small possibility it was a detonation by an unknown third party, ie. breakaway civilization / powers that be separate from any government entity. That may explain why even Carter wasn't certain. But the scientists acting strange about it... I think they fully knew and were cooperative with the guilty party, which is most likely SA or Israel. Or both.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 09:19 AM
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originally posted by: intrptr

originally posted by: deltaalphanovember
a reply to: intrptr

because a nuclear detonation has a specific "signature". This signature is what the 12 Vela satellites were designed to look for. They were "watchdog" satellites.

That watchdog system can and has been fooled by space rocks. I read an article about it in the 80s.

Bright flashes of light, loud booms, high in the atmosphere?

ReCheck your 'specifics'.



Can you provide the source for "has been fooled by space rocks" please?

Afaik nuclear explosions have a very specific signature. There is an initial extremely bright and ultrashort light flash, quickly followed by a weaker secondary light caused by the expanding shockwave.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 09:38 AM
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And no-one has suggested the Antarctic Nazis yet?

Wow, this place is slipping!



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 01:44 PM
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originally posted by: moebius

originally posted by: intrptr

originally posted by: deltaalphanovember
a reply to: intrptr

because a nuclear detonation has a specific "signature". This signature is what the 12 Vela satellites were designed to look for. They were "watchdog" satellites.

That watchdog system can and has been fooled by space rocks. I read an article about it in the 80s.

Bright flashes of light, loud booms, high in the atmosphere?

ReCheck your 'specifics'.



Can you provide the source for "has been fooled by space rocks" please?

Afaik nuclear explosions have a very specific signature. There is an initial extremely bright and ultrashort light flash, quickly followed by a weaker secondary light caused by the expanding shockwave.

You just described meteor ablation. The article i read back in the 80s, sorry I didn't save it. Could have been OMNI, Scientific American, or Nat Geo. Those the ones I used to read.

They were trying to fine tune their hi altitude defense detection system but discovered they were detecting meteors exploding instead. They still do detect those.

You find me the source for that and we'll drink to a zillion years of solar system formation.



posted on Feb, 14 2018 @ 01:54 PM
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Wondeefully interesting Mirageman another amazing post well done !



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