The Lebanese news sitem Almanar News cites an anonymous source claiming that two missiles were fired by US forces in Spain towards Syria. They were detected by Russia, it sparked an international incident, so one was exploded in mid-air and the other was "diverted towards the sea" (presumably the Mediterranean sea)

I am skeptical of this.

The US has two military bases in Spain:

Map showing bases

The closest distance between these military bases in Spain and Syria is about 4,000 km.

The ballistic missiles are quite loud when they are fired. Check this video.

So, how could such loud launch, from Andalusia in Spain or near Gibraltar, have been unnoticed given there are a lot of people living in south of Spain and a lot of airports with radars.

Are the claims made in the article possible?

  • I'd just say it's highly improbable of a launch of this type being unnoticed, and both bases are on highly and very dense populated areas, enough to have spurred atleast a dozen of whatsapp video chains and a lot of anti-nato propaganda on the anti-nato news channels and newspapers, which didn't say anything about it.
    – CptEric
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


Hard to get sources, but some common sense comes to mind as a good way to reason about this:

  • launch could have been from a ship or submarine at sea, out of sight of the coast. That's not hard to do, in fact the USSR/Russia, France, UK, China, and the USA all have submarines capable of doing this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio-class_submarine
  • Any such launch would be near instantly observed by orbiting satellites put up there for that very purpose by the USA, Russia/USSR, and probably by now China and other nations as well as part of their warning systems against nuclear attack. Any such launch is likely to trigger an extremely paranoid response from the other side, up to and including a nuclear retaliatory strike.
  • The US certainly has ballistic missiles for launch from submarines with the required range. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident_%28missile%29
  • All these missiles have only nuclear warheads, no conventionally armed versions are known to exist (of course they could be so secret nobody outside the military knows about them, but the risk of launching one would be too grave, see above)
  • The US currently has no land based ballistic missiles that I'm aware of except the Minuteman III and some MGM-140 tactical weapons with range of a few hundred km for use from the M270 launch system, all of which are located on the US mainland in their launch silos (and all of which have only nuclear warheads). The Pershing 1 and 2 were all destroyed under the INF treaty (and lacked the described range), Midgetman, MX, Trident 1, etc. etc. were all retired as well, Lance (which also lacks the range, and would be the only conventional armed option) is also gone.

Ergo, the only conclusion I can draw from what data I have and know from past study of such systems (a lot of it from printed books) is that no such ballistic missile with the capabilities implied exists in the US arsenal, and that any launch of such if it existed would have been very rapidly detected and responded to by the Russians and possibly others.

As to it being an Israeli missile, Yahoo news shows a map of one being fired over what looks like the Adriatic and dated 03 September. So not from Spain at all (and the timing might also be wrong, I don't know the supposed launch date from the Libyan claim).
The Jeruzalem post confirms and details what was launched and tested, but doesn't mention the capabilities (range, speed, etc.) of the missile.
This article lists the size and has a decent photograph of the Sparrow ballistc missile decoy, which from the looks of it doesn't seem like it has anything near 4000km range (and the map shown by Yahoo seems to indicate more like several hundred km).
Even if you don't believe any of those sources, you might be more inclined to believe Al Jazeera, not exactly a friend of Israel, who don't question the launch.
A major problem finding any data on this vehicle is the fact that its name is identical to an old and very common US air to air missile, so any search comes up with thousands of hits about that one (and in fact many news stories about the 03 September launch mistakenly include photographs of that one).

  • NBC alleges that it was an Israeli "Sparrow" air-launched ballistic training missile.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 16:55
  • added a reference to that. Doesn't match the Libyan claim though.
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 17:51
  • There's a Wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparrow_(target_missile) which references some technical specs and news articles.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 18:38
  • I wonder where wikipedia got the idea that it has an explosive warhead. The IDF info sheet only mentions it can carry a warhead simulator (iow an inert slug designed to mimic the flight characteristics of a warhead)
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:12
  • It's reference [5] in the Wikipedia article: defense-update.com/… alleges "The Silver Sparrow developed by RAFAEL is an advanced version of the Sparrow air-launched ballistic target missile’. The Sparrow targets have a modular warhead section carrying different payloads such as inert, high explosive or water."
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 9:05

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