Mysterious South China Sea Missile Launch Claimed To Be Caught By Airliner (Updated)

Video taken from an airliner appears to show the launch of a missile from a ship or a submarine in the South China Sea.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Clips from a video that is said to show an apparent missile launch, possibly from a submarine, in the South China Sea, as seen from a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 airliner.
via Twitter.


Video has emerged on social media that is said to show an apparent launch of a missile, possibly from a submarine, as viewed from a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 flying over the South China Sea. Unseen individuals can be heard in the clip talking about whether it is heading their way.

Twitter user @jchovernut, a pilot for U.S.-based airline Allegiant Air and a veteran of the U.S. Navy's submarine community, posted the video, seen below, online on Tuesday. "They were over the South China Sea & were issued a last-minute hectic call from ATC: 'turn left 90 degrees immediately!!,'" according to one Tweet accompanying the video.

A separate posting of the video on Facebook, as well as responses to comments there, provide the additional detail that the clip was reportedly filmed from a Cathay Pacific 777. The War Zone has contacted the individual who shared the clip for additional information.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER on approach to London's Heathrow Airport. Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia

Separately, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) redirected The War Zone to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in response to a query about any information that the U.S. military may have available on recent missile launches in the South China Sea. We have also reached out Cathay Pacific for comment.

At present, it's unclear when or where specifically the video was shot, and it cannot be quickly verified independently. There do not appear to be any readily apparent Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) or other imagery regarding recent missile or rocket launches of any kind in the region.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) did announce that it would be conducting drills in the South China Sea between May 19 and May 23, which coincided with U.S. President Joe Biden's visits to South Korea and Japan, but did not mention any planned live-fire missile launches.

On May 7, North Korea did test a submarine-launched ballistic missile, but in the East Sea, hundreds of miles away from the South China Sea. In 2017, the crew of Cathay Pacific flight flying north of Japan observed a portion of a North Korean missile test. However, it is unlikely that this video shows that previous incident, as the airline said at the time that what the aircrew saw was parts of the missile falling back to Earth, not being launched.

There is, of course, the possibility that this video could show a different, publicly known past event in the South China Sea or somewhere else in the world.

If this was indeed an unannounced missile launch from a submarine, or a ship, or some other platform, on the part of the Chinese or another country in the South China Sea, it would seem to have been an extremely reckless decision as evidenced by the apparent presence of the Cathy Pacific flight in the area. Though the plane does not seem to have ever been in imminent danger, or very close to the projectile at at point, there are still obvious risks associated with a launch in any sort of proximity to a route used by commercial aircraft.

We will continue to follow this story and make updates with any additional information that might become available.


Cathay Pacific has now responded to The War Zone's request for comment on this video.

"Thanks for checking. There is no record of such an occurrence involving any of our flights," the airline's Corporate Affairs said in an initial statement.

"Our response addressed your enquiry [sic] relating to the recent video," the office added in response to follow-up questions about the date ranges of the records consulted and whether they covered flights operating outside of the South China Sea region.

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