The 1979 Vela Incident


in Bombs and rockets, Geek stuff, History, Law, Politics, Security

There are some historical events where it may be impossible for ordinary people to learn the truth. For example, there are situations where more than one nation state has a good reason to circulate a false history — complete with credible-seeming historical documents.

One such case may be the 1979 Vela incident, in which an American satellite may have detected a clandestine nuclear test in the Indian Ocean. Some analyses have concluded that no nuclear explosion took place and that the satellite malfunctioned. Historian Richard Rhodes, who has written a series of excellent books about the history of nuclear weapons, thinks that it was a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently published a long discussion of the issue.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

. September 28, 2015 at 11:50 pm
. November 23, 2021 at 11:32 am

Given the mounting evidence, including the most recent analyses relating to the 1979 explosion’s radioactive fallout, the question now is whether the the U.S. government might finally share what it knows about the event. This would seem to make sense, as it would help discourage future violations of pledges not to test by countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and other aspirational nuclear states.

The bureaucracy isn’t likely to back it, though. Although the Trump administration is a stickler for compliance and enforcement of nuclear understandings and treaties, Israel is a special case. Every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has refused to acknowledge Israel had a serious nuclear weapons program or arsenal. It would be risky at best for any U.S. official’s career to confirm Israel should be shamed as a violator of an international nuclear agreement it signed and ratified. That, after all, is what Israel accuses Iran of doing.

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