Talk:Vela Incident

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Inconsistencies: Acoustics[edit]

This article reports that the NSC stated in a report quoted in paragraph four: "no corroborating seismic or hydroacoustic data," of a nuclear explosion was detected. and yet later the article states, in paragraph eight: "There were some other data which seemed to confirm the explosion. Hydrophones operated by the U.S. Navy detected a signal which was consistent with a small nuclear explosion on or slightly under the surface of the water near the Prince Edward Islands." The second statement has not citation. This needs to be removed or the discrepancy highlighted as contradictory information. --Joe volcano (talk) 22:30, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

The whole articlr should be resorted. The last bit about the FOIA-d information is probably better in the introduction, and the "probably not" quotation should be annotated as being from the initial assessment (with subsequent information more in favor of the test theory than against).
Also, from a scientific perspective: has a similar anomaly ever been detected that was not due to a nuclear test? Apparently not - and in that case the "malfunctioning satellite" theory needs evidence on how such a malfunction could occur to make it more than an ad hoc "hypothesis". Overall, the burden of proof clearly rest on those who claim it was not a nuclear test, because te latter is the only hypothesis yet advanced to explain the data, and hence the hypothesis to falsify. The article sucks in this respect. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 10:47, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

There was also an allegation that Jonathan Pollard whilst working in USN Intelligence obfuscated the Carter Inquiry with false data that the USN air samples found nothing.

Petedavo talk contributions 00:43, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

As for the Naval Research Laboratory hydroacoustic data showing nothing. Well thats patently untrue too. Petedavo talk contributions 00:50, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

And the article also claims that fallout was not detected in Australian Sheep thyroid tests, yet Dr VanMiddlesWorth data held at Dept of Energy Nevada clearly shows a spike, which is not the same as 'none' Petedavo talk contributions 00:54, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Easy to detect?[edit]

Wouldn't it be very easy to detect whether or not a nuclear weapon was used? Surely the island would still have excessive radioactive material if this was the case? 20:19, May 17, 2005 (UTC)

Not necessarily -- it would depend on what the island was made of and what sort of test it was. If it was conducted significantly above ground, or under water, it would not create a lot of fallout. --Fastfission 21:29, 17 May 2005 (UTC)
Not to mention, that the location was not known. The Vela satellites weren't very accurate. It was at night. Maby little far, but a 3kt nuclear explosion should have been seen from South African coast. At least as a distant tiny flash that lighted the sky over horizon. Given the various information available about how far away people were during Japan nuclear bombing and later Pacific tests and still saw the explosions as short tiny distant flashes over horizion, this one should have been seen if it ever happened. And it was even night! The South African coast is well populated, there must have been at least million people that could have seen at least something. Also, in a range of about 100 miles between Cape Town towards south is dense cargo ship traffic (major route between Indian Ocean and Atlantic). There must have been at lest few cargo ships at the time even further south of African coast and closer to possible test site. But again, no reports. And, not to mention air traffic over Cape Town which gives even better visibility that could have spotted something.
Given all this, it's almost impossible that something like this could be undetected at that aproximate location. What was the weather like that night? Any major storm fronts between South Africa and Antarctica?
The Prince Edward Islands are almost a thousand miles from the coast. Seeing the blast from the African coast would be the equivalent of seeing one of the Nevada tests from Vancouver or seeing the Hiroshima blast from Taiwan. Moreover, the blast was only two or three kilotons, much smaller than any of the blasts you mentioned. - SimonP 00:22, August 14, 2005 (UTC)

"Recent developments"[edit]

There have been a couple stories bubbling on the AFP feed that a newspaper in Israel is claiming to have gotten documents "confirming" a 1979 test. (see, i.e., [1]). I think we can wait 24 hours for the story to actually be published with the details before trying to update the article here. It is well known that there were some US reports which concluded that it was a test, and some which concluded that there was not, and without more information than in these teasers it is difficult to know what is actually being claimed. --Fastfission 21:45, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

  • Note that this page, which was given as a source to the recently added info, is most certainly not what the news articles are about (it was posted a few weeks ago and does not claim to have confirmed one thing or another). --Fastfission 21:47, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Interesting that these SA/Israel stories tend to appear from time to time in the Israeli press, given that government's sensitivities over all matters nuclear (vide Mordechai Vanunu)! The May 19, 2006 article, to which Fastfission referred, was reported to have appeared in Yediot Aharonot. But, what about the following "not-so-recent development"?

"In an April 20, 1997 article that appeared in the Israeli Ha'aretz daily newspaper, South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, confirmed for the first time that a flare over the Indian Ocean detected by an American satellite in September 1979 was from a nuclear test. This statement was confirmed by the US embassy in Pretoria as an accurate account of what Pahad officially acknowledged. The article said that Israel helped South Africa develop its bomb designs in return for 550 tons of uranium and other assistance. Original analyses conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and others in the US intelligence community said the flash could only be from a nuclear test (Blast from the past: Lab scientists receive vindication)."Phase4 14:17, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
I suspect it is part and parcel of Israel's nuclear posture. They don't admit to having a nuclear arsenal but reap the deterrence benefit by 'leaking' stories like this time to time. This latest round of revelations are likely due to the Iran situation; a subtle reminder that they have the Bomb.--DV8 2XL 14:27, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
Aziz Pahad later retracted his statement and claimed to have been misquoted, as this very article mentions. To use his statement as "proof" is incorrect. — Impi 16:06, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't think we're in the realm of "proof" here. But Pahad's retraction (in a letter to the Albuquerque Journal) seems rather belated and, frankly, unconvincing. The odds are that Israel and South Africa did co-operate in the 1970s and 1980s in the development and testing of nuclear weapons. Neither country is ever likely to volunteer handing over the "proof" though.Phase4 17:57, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't know, what possible motive would SA have for continuing with the secrecy? Relations between the ANC government and Israel have certainly been very frosty for a number of years now. Most likely, I think, is that Aziz Pahad screwed up and repeated a widely-held belief as fact without having the evidence to back it up. Furthermore, while co-operation between SA and Israel on nuclear weapons was possible (especially considering their co-operation on ICBMs), it is nowhere close to being certain or even probable. Indeed, David Albright, the former United Nations weapons inspector considered by many to be the primary expert on SA's nuclear weapons program, has stated before that the available evidence argued against such co-operation. Considering that the IAEA was granted full and complete access to all the records and personnel of the nuclear program, I would say it's highly doubtful that significant Israeli assistance to the program would have been missed. In any case, SA's refinement methods and bomb designs do not appear to resemble Israeli designs, which also counts against possible co-operation. Thing is, this is actually makes a fair amount of sense. Despite their active co-operation in many areas, SA and Israel still did not fully trust each other, due to Israel's distrust of the nature of the apartheid regime, and the quietly anti-semitic beliefs of many of the National Party's hardliners. Their respective nuclear programs, it would seem, were beyond a red line that neither trusted each other to cross. — Impi 22:44, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

UN weapons inspector[edit]

Fascinating link to David Albright's report, which repays reading in its entirety: thanks, Impi! The last page of the report [2] quotes Commodore Dieter Gerhardt, convicted Soviet spy and former commander of South Africa's Simonstown naval base, as saying early in 1994:

"Although I was not directly involved in planning or carrying out the operation, I learned unofficially that the flash (Vela Incident) was produced by an Israeli-South African test code-named 'Operation Phenix'. The explosion was clean and was not supposed to be detected. But they were not as smart as they thought, and the weather changed – so the Americans were able to pick it up."Phase4 13:59, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, technical co-operation on nuclear weapons and the Vela Incident are really two different things. It's very possible that Israel requested South Africa's assistance in a covert nuclear weapons test, and that SA obliged. This does not, however, logically lead to full-on co-operation and collaboration in nuclear weapons construction and research.
I'm also wary of trusting anything Gerhardt says. Not only was he a convicted spy, and thus likely harbouring a rather serious grudge, but as he himself admits his information is second-hand and obtained "unofficially". Were he a more credible source, and if he had actually been directly involved with the operation, then we might be able to add more weight to his words. As it is, it's just another piece of a puzzle with too few pieces.
Another troubling aspect is that such a nuclear weapons test would conceivably require the support of a number of South African Navy ships, and the involvement of at least a few dozen SAN personnel. Yet in the past 30 years, not a single person directly involved has come forward with any information at all. Considering the change of government in South Africa, and the SA government's apparent willingness to demonise the apartheid-regime and its actions wherever possible (not always a bad thing), this is fairly surprising and does provide more evidence for those who claim that the Vela flash was really a satellite malfunction.
Personally, I'm undecided. There is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence that is half-way convincing of there having been a nuclear test, and as SA's first deployable nuclear weapon was only available after the date it would make logical sense for it to have been an Israeli test with South African assistance. So I'm willing to accept that it's certainly possible. However, there is just not enough hard evidence to make a conclusion either way, and so it seems that the question of what exactly happened on 22 September 1979 will, for now at least, have to remain an unsolved mystery. — Impi 14:42, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm still a little unhappy that we don't have a link to the Israeli newspaper story itself, and have to rely on an almost useless story-about-the-story from a Turkish newspaper (or Cuban, or Qatarian, but absolutely no Western presses). Most of the "secret US documents" which have been FOIAed are reports by different groups disagreeing with each other, and assessments on "what it means" assuming one result or the other (but not offering an opinion on it). Anyway, I can't even tell who was supposed to have FOIAed the documents in this case -- there is no "Center of Investigation on National Security of Georgetown University" that I can find reference to. If they mean the National Security Archive at GWU, I can't find anything on their site which says what these papers are claiming. I'm more than a little skeptical at the moment. The English edition of the Israeli paper comes up with nothing when I search for "nuclear 1979". --Fastfission 20:39, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm convinced that this whole thing is an 'official hoax'. S.A. has come clean on it's N-weapon program - why hide this? As it was pointed out up thread, S.A. and Israel are not diplomatically or ideologically close, then or now. Even if S.A. wanted to hide Israel's involvement, they could just claim it was a solo effort.
I suspect that the Vela Flash was an instrument failure, but it was to the benefit of the two regimes at the time, to allow the world to believe they had done it, and were able to do so covertly. --DV8 2XL 00:58, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Weapon availability[edit]

To answer SimonP, who queried whether South Africa actually had a nuclear weapon ready for testing in 1979, I quote from UN weapons inspector David Albright's report [3]:

"Although the [1977] test was canceled, the nuclear explosive program continued unabated. In 1978, the Atomic Energy Board built a second, smaller device. This device was designed to be rapidly deployed for a fully instrumented underground nuclear test at the Kalahari site. This second device was still not loaded with fissile material. The Y-plant [at Valindaba, next to the Pelindaba Research Center] had produced its first Highly Enriched Uranium, but it was not until the second half of 1979 that the plant would produce enough for a device, about 55 kilograms of material. The first batch of uranium was only about 80 per cent enriched. The device was designed to use weapon-grade uranium (greater than 90 per cent enriched), but the principal effect of the lower enrichment would have been a lower yield."

Enough said?Phase4 13:03, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

They had bombs, but they did not have enough fissile material until the end of 1979, after the Vela Incident occured. Here is a quote from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists "According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), however, South Africa did not construct its first nuclear explosive device until November 1979, two months after the mysterious flash."[4] - SimonP 13:33, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
The problem then becomes: how did the IAEA reach its November 1979 conclusion? IAEA inspectors weren't allowed access to SA's nuclear facilities until 1991 – and then it was under strict confidentiality conditions. The inspectors had to rely upon the Y-Plant's hand-written daily operating logs – provided by SA's Atomic Energy Corporation – to conclude (somewhat unconvincingly) that enough fissile material was not available until after the Vela Incident occurred.[5]Phase4 14:24, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
I just want to point out that both of these article are by David Albright, though the one saying they didn't have a bomb by then was published three years after the other one. --Fastfission 14:28, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
SimonP seems to have jumped the gun on this. The second sentence of his latest article edit does not logically follow from the first.Phase4 21:19, 1 June 2006 (UTC)
What do you mean? According to the IAEA the South African documents show that no weapon existed before November 1979. Thus either the weapon was not a South African one, or the records were faulty. This site has some more on this issue. It states that "South Africa's accounts of its weapon development activities indicate that its first device was not complete until months after the incident. From documents made available to it, the IAEA believes that the first nuclear device was not manufactured until November." That site also states that the records make clear that all the highly enriched uranium produced by South Africa is accounted for up to 1989. - SimonP 21:44, 1 June 2006 (UTC)
I've never heard reports of anything but full and open access for the IAEA's inspectors during that whole process, so I don't know how Phase4 can claim that their conclusion was "unconvincing". The co-ordinated effort it would have required to fudge all the records and brief every single person conceivably involved in a 1979 test would be considerably difficult, if not impossible. Besides, there were dozens of people involved in SA's nuclear program, and a nuclear test in 1979 would have required the support of South African Navy ships and dozens more sailors and support personnel. Yet in the past 27 years, despite the presence of an entirely new regime wholly hostile to the previous one, not a single witness has come forward to claim involvement in the 1979 event. Considering the proven inability of any project to remain secret for long, this appears to be fairly strong evidence against the Vela Incident actually having been a nuclear test. In any case, the evidence in favour of it having been a test is decidedly weak and circumstantial, and I simply don't see how anybody can honestly claim that they're certain it was a nuclear test. — Impi 12:57, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Impi thereby sets up a neat Aunt Sally: nobody is claiming (honestly or otherwise) that "they're certain it was a nuclear test". I say (factually) that twelve years (1979-1991) is an awful long time before IAEA inspectors were allowed to inspect AEC's records. We know from David Albright's brilliant report that the HEU plant and Advena were decommissioned, buildings and land made habitable after decontamination, and that hundreds of personnel were thoroughly debriefed in those 12 years. Doctoring a few hand-written logsheets at the Y-Plant would not have been beyond the capability of SA's nuclear establishment. The jury is therefore still very much out on the Vela Incident!Phase4 17:46, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

The issue, for our purposes here, is how best to write this. I agree that the current status of the argument seems to be that the jury is out, even though there are some reports that imply that S.Africa would not have had a weapon themselves. The other option which is often discussed, even if S. Africa didn't have bomb capacity themselves, is that they were providing logistical aid for an Israeli test, in exchange for the testing data. --Fastfission 18:17, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Fastfission. How best to write it? Why not simply delete the whole Responsibility section?Phase4 18:28, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
I think the "responsibility" section is not too bad as it is, except a few of the sentences don't logically follow each other (I'll fix that right now). As it currently stands, it makes it clear that there isn't any necessarily obvious candidate for who would have hosted a test, though there are a few plausible options. --Fastfission 14:04, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

Operation Phenix[edit]

Having, in my view, unjustifiably removed Operation Phenix from the introduction to the Vela Incident article, Impi should now presumably also remove the disambiguation link to Operation Phoenix in the preamble?Phase4 12:17, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

  • If Operation Phoenix still redirects here, then having the disambig makes sense. I don't think we need Operation Phenix in the intro since, as Impi pointed out, it is not really known whether this is an accurate name for it or not, and certainly not a name that people would be expecting to see early on. I also think that having a "code-name" for it too early on gives too much credence to the idea that it definitely happened, when it seems much more up in the air. --Fastfission 14:00, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Actually, I now see that Operation Phoenix no longer redirects here, so there is indeed no need for the disambig. --Fastfission 14:01, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
    • Phase4, Dieter Gerhardt was not even involved in the alleged operation, and by his own admission was speaking about second-hand rumours. It certainly isn't correct to claim that the Vela Incident is otherwise known as "Operation Phenix" (thus conferring a certain legitimacy to it) when the only source for that term is distinctly unreliable. Btw, I agree with Fastfission that a rewording some of the "responsibility" section is necessary, as it's made clear in Albright's writings that the '77 test was to be a "cold" one without fissile material. — Impi 15:19, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
      • Another "Aunt Sally", Impi! The expression I used was "reported to have been code-named Operation Phenix" NOT "otherwise known as Operation Phenix". Happily, Fastfission has saved your blushes by removing the disambig.Phase4 19:17, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
        • Actually, I believe the expression you used was "and said to have been code-named 'Operation Phenix'." Considering you wrote it, I'd have thought you'd be able to remember that. Further, my point stands: When only a single unreliable source attributes a name to something, it would be incorrect to state in the article's intro that it was "said to have been called X", and the very statement itself implies more widespread acceptance of the code-name (and thus the legitimacy of one position) than is really the case. As for the disambig, it was an oversight, one which I consider to be rather minor and unimportant considering the fact that "Operation Phenix" still redirects here, and it's reasonable to expect people looking for "Phoenix" to possibly misspell it. — Impi 20:56, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
South African cannot have tested a nuclear device in 1979. For two very good reasons. Firstly its first device was not finished until 1980. That should be definitive enough! Secondly, because there is absolutely no evidence that any of its sex weapons were ever exploded. Six were built, six were dismantled. The only "evidence" of a SA bomb is allegations by anti-South African activists. There is no objective evidence at all. It disappoints me that the allegations of a SA bomb are given as much credence as they are, as they are no more plausible than stories of UFO abductions.Royalcourtier (talk) 22:18, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

Bull fact[edit]

Removed from article: "A number of commentators have suggested that it might have been a battlefield nuclear weapon being developed by Gerald Bull, whose company Space Research Corporation had a contract with Armscor.[citation needed]" Extraordinary claims and all that. Rmhermen 00:18, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Yes, quite extraordinary. If memory serves me well, there was talk in the late seventies/early eighties of using the G5 howitzer to launch battlefield weapons, both chemical and mini-nukes. And, coincidentally, U.S. Customs charged Bull with breaching the UN's mandatory arms embargo in 1977 (and he was imprisoned the year after the Vela Incident) for supplying South Africa with gun barrels and artillery shells. There may therefore be something in these claims but sources need to be cited before reinserting in the article.Phase4 11:58, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
Bull's company assisted South Africa in creating the G5 howitzer and its base-bleed shells, but that's about it. It was not involved in research for battlefield nuclear weapons, and it certainly did not supply any to South Africa. As I'm sure you realise, it's a non-trivial endeavour to create nuclear weapons small enough and advanced enough to be fired from 155mm artillery, and South Africa was certainly nowhere near that level of capability in its own nuclear program. On balance therefore, I don't think there's anything at all in that claim. — Impi 13:28, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, and on top of that, I doubt Bull would be the guy who would be able to develop a battlefield nuke. Sure, he could make the gun to fire them out of, but accomplish that degree of nuclear miniaturization? I know almost nothing about the guy but that doesn't seem to be his skill set. In the U.S., design miniaturization was done chiefly by theoretical physicists (i.e. Ted Taylor). --Fastfission 14:02, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
Right. Gerald Bull was an aeronautical engineer, and had no expertise in nuclear physics and engineering. Neither he nor his company were ever involved in nuclear weapons research, let alone nuclear weapons miniaturization. Clearly, the original claim was entirely spurious. — Impi 16:08, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
Personal anecdotes and assertions: not a good basis for an encyclopedic article! Let's have some objective and unimpeachable sources so that these claims can be tested.Phase4 21:38, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes, let's have them! That's exactly the issue here — no sources. --Fastfission 21:56, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Some pictures of Bull's alleged Nuclear munition casings Petedavo talk contributions 08:38, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

comparisons to north korea?[edit]

isn't speculation about the north korean blast that it could not have been nuclear as the "minimum required yield for a nuclear weapon" is in the range of 10-20kt? wouldn't that make this a non-nuclear explosion by default? ... aa:talk 17:01, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Please see Nuclear warfare#Sub-strategic use, and you will find that a weapon with a yield of just 1kt is sufficient. So the Vela Incident was most likely a low-yield nuclear device.Phase4 17:55, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

There is no limit to how small an atomic blast can be. 15:00, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

Yes there is. That is set by critical mass

No, critical mass only sets a minimum amount on how much fissionable material is in a bomb. (and critical mass can be reduced by a number of technical tricks). A large mass of fissionable material can make a small explosion-- anywhere down to a "fizzle". Geoffrey.landis (talk) 15:59, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
The smallest ever true nuclear "bomb" actually detonated was the american Davy Crockett test, which had a yield of a mere 10 (ten) tons of TNT. It was essentially an oversized RPG with a small atomic payload. Supposedly an A-bomb made of fissile element Californium could be made small enough to fit in a 20mm autocannon projectile or even caliber .50 (12.7mm) heavy machine gun ammo. It would cost about 900,000 USD to make one if series produced and possible a billion to make a prototype. The small amount of explosive yield from such a warhead would not be worth the trouble and expense, considering the political and environmental movement fallout. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:53, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

UFOs etc.[edit]

The article doesn't mention anything about this incident's place in UFO lore. Not saying it was, but it is of cultural interest. --MacRusgail 19:54, 28 April 2007 (UTC)

Vacuum Bombs?[edit]

Could be a vacuum bomb. Recently (as of 2007) Russia has claimed that it has a device that is similar to a nuclear device without radiation. If so, this could have been tested then, and is 20 years ahead of the design of russian vacuum bombs. Anything that's able to be strapped on a rocket and propelled anywhere on earth is a ballistic missile. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:53, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

I wouldn't trust a claim from modern Russia if you strapped it to a Saint and put a big sign on it, saying "You Can Trust Me". Russia is currently a deeply corrupt dictatorship with a wide range of motives to issue misleading information. Toby Douglass (talk) 13:10, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
That "vacuum bomb" was "just" a massive thermobaric weapon. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 10:53, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Heavily censored article![edit]

The article makes no mention that in 1997, the former deputy military minister of apartheid South Africa admitted the Vela incident was actually a joint zionist-apartheid nuclear test. In fact he said it was a quick series of three nuclear tests, of which only the last and most powerful one, a 3kT neutron bomb blast was detected by the americans due to unfavourable change of weather and dispersal of the cloud cover.

The jewish-apartheid deal nuclear included apartheid giving 550 tons of raw uranium to the jews for enrichment and bomb-making in Dimona, while South Africa received six primitive but usable "gun-type" atomic bombs suitable for air-drop (the hardened shelters made for storing these are now tourist attraction). The Vela tests were meant to produce research results and also to symbolically seal the deal. All bomb and nuclear material for "Vela/Phoenix" were supplied by the jews, with apartheid South Africa providing just the island location.

The former deputy minister publicly said all these in 1997, but he had to revoce days later for fear of his life. What he said included info never before made public, therefore he was not just repeating "circulating rumors". Especially the 550 ton uranium smuggling to Dimona was never before heard of, but since confimed to have happened. (talk) 22:46, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

"Heavily censored" implies that known (and relevant) information has been deliberately excluded. The information you refer to appears to be known only to yourself, since you singularly fail to give us any published (internet or print) references to confirm that this is anything other than your own imagination. If there are independent and sane sources for this, please tell us what they are - we would genuinely be interested. Incidentally, who are these "jews" [sic: should at least be "Jews"] you refer to? If you mean Israelis, why not say so?
It's not completely implausible that clandestine nuclear weapons development may have been attempted, by the governments you suggest or others, but your general tone does not engender confidence in your (so far unsupported) assertions. Please give us the evidence. (talk) 04:17, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
The claim is nonsense. The statements in 1997 were not by the 'former deputy military minister of apartheid South Africa', but by Aziz Pahad, a deputy minister in the post-apartheid ANC government. He had no special knowledge of apartheid-era military programs and was never involved, intimately or otherwise, with South Africa's nuclear weapons program. After making the statement, he was embroiled in a media storm as journalists jumped on the sensationalist story and tried to obtain proof that what he was saying was correct. Of course, he was forced to back down after it became clear that he was just repeating commonly-believed rumours and had no actual evidence. It's also worth mentioning that Pahad is one of the most rabidly anti-Israeli people in the ANC, which may have some bearing on his motivations.
Further, the details of South Africa's nuclear program are known. The IAEA was given complete and unprecedented access to all documentation, sites and personnel involved without restriction. It spent years painstakingly investigating each and every detail, searching in vain for inconsistencies which would support some of the more outlandish theories out there. It found none. But what it did find was an entirely domestic program, with South African enrichment facilities (using a locally-developed Helikon vortex separation process), local weapons-manufacturing and a fairly basic nuclear weapon design. Israeli involvement was apparently non-existent, and they certainly did not supply South Africa with weapons: By the 1980s, Israeli nuclear weapons were far more advanced than the fairly primitive devices constructed in SA, which were themselves little different from the devices dropped on Japan in 1945. And while it may be possible that 50 (not 550) tons of uranium was sold to Israel, it was in the form of uranium ore and not the highly-enriched uranium required for nuclear weapons. This of course is why uranium ore is not as heavily-regulated as the enriched stuff. There was also zero evidence of any research into, expertise for or production around neutron bombs.
And I agree with the above poster, why use the word 'Jews' instead of just saying Israelis? Not only are your 'facts' shoddily-researched and a frustration to those who have worked on these articles, but your tone and use of words makes it clear that you're not participating in good faith. Come back when you have real evidence, not a half a dozen unverified and unlikely claims. — Impi (talk) 05:58, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

calling aziz pahad "one of the most rabidly anti-Israeli people in the ANC" and consider this "fact" as a motivation for his statement is as pathetic as to claim that "the details of South Africa's nuclear program are known". most of the documentation was destroyed (as were the bombs) before the IAEA could inspect the sites and the vela incident IS one of the details of SAs nuclear weapons program which are NOT enlightened. and, uranium can be enriched AFTER it has been sold. by the way, it's usually "yellowcake" and not the ore which is exported. it is very disputed if the Vortex/helikon enrichment process indeed was developed in south africa. sources say otherwise about the involvement of israel and other countries in SAs nuclear waepons. do your homework, impi. --Severino (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 14:57, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

Various observations...[edit]

The source of the flash the satellite picked up might have been a meteorite or volcanic erruption. (Nearly a year after the incident volcanic activities took place in the specific area)

A cooperation between Israel and South Africa makes some sense to me especially because Israel is limited in space to test nuclear devices without detection.

On Prince Edward Island I found visible remains of some event of the kind of an impact or detonation.
Coordinates: (-46° 37' 51.60", +37° 53' 27.60") or (-46.631000, 37.891000)
(bobstar) (talk) 09:13, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Volcanic crater, present in 1976 CIA map.
Note that it would be the least sensible course of action to conduct a nuclear test on the islands. If there was a nuclear test, it was apparently some distance (several 100s of km) due WSW of the islands. Which would be a smart location if SAfr was involved, because the Prevailing Westerlies would have placed Marion Island with its meteo station in an ideal position to measure fallout and whatnot (as you can see, there is generous precipitation on the W side of the peaks on Marion). Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 11:06, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

"Reassuring" to whom?[edit]

The latter part of the revised opening paragraph of the article is in quotation marks and now reads: "The conclusions of the presidential panel (the Ad Hoc Panel) were reassuring, as they suggested that the most likely explanation of the Vela detection was a meteoroid hitting the satellite — in part because of the discrepancy in bhangmeter readings. Others who examined the data, including DIA, the national laboratories, and contractors reached a very different conclusion — that the data supported the conclusion that on September 22, 1979 Vela 6911 had detected a nuclear detonation."

Neither of the two inline references ([6] & [7] appears to support this quotation. Which raises the obvious question about the "conclusions of the presidential panel (the Ad Hoc Panel)": to whom were they "reassuring"?---PJHaseldine (talk) 14:57, 12 February 2009 (UTC)


"Low levels of iodine-131 (a short-half-life product of nuclear fission) were reportedly detected in the thyroid glands of sheep in the Australian States of Victoria and Tasmania soon after the "detection" of the light flashes. Studies of wind patterns confirmed that fall-out from an explosion in the southern Indian Ocean could have been carried from there to southwestern Australia."

I'm not sure if this is just a typographic error or a careless elision, but Victoria and Tasmania are in southeastern Australia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:39, 23 November 2009 (UTC)


What was wrong with this edit ? Sources (guardian, nytimes) seem reliable enough. Wizzy 15:08, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

nothing was wrong, therefore reverted.--Severino (talk) 20:55, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
A whole bunch of things are wrong with it - it's original research to join the dots between facts, or to try to lay them out in such a way that leads readers to this conclusion. Specifically, some of the unproven assumptions with this non-deductive reasoning are:
  • The discussions led to a weapon being built and delivered to South Africa by Israel - actually, the Guardian makes no mention that any of this happened, only that it was mooted.
  • Contrary to the implication, the dismantled home-grown weapons program supports the view that the build-not-buy option was selected by the South Africans.
  • There's an assumption that a weapon was delivered, and the first detonation organised in the Indian Ocean at extremely short notice after the Israeli-SA discussions. How? And why the hurry?
  • For any link between the Vela incident and the SA-Israeli discussions to exist, the referenced information in the article about David Albright's dismantling inspection would have to be completely wrong. It's a big stretch of the imagination to believe that he was completely duped.
  • I've not seen a single source, let alone a reliable one that makes any link between the Guardian disclosures and the Vela incident.
So this information in the context of the Vela incident is original research at best or fringe at worst. Socrates2008 (Talk)

the whole truth about the vela incident will possibly never be disclosed. anyway it is not disclosed yet. that's the reason why the current article, especially the section "Possible responsible parties", consists partially of "approaches" and speculations and that there is information which is "indirectly" associated with the vela incident like the one about the UN SC resolution 418.--Severino (talk) 13:37, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

I accept that the whole truth will never be known. But that does not ipso facto open this article to wild speculation - this is supposed to be an encyclopedia, so the speculation, if any, needs to come from a source otherwise it's original research. Socrates2008 (Talk) 13:45, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

well, it is not claimed that the SA-israeli nuclear collaboration necessarily had an implication on the vela incident. the section in question consists partially of BACKGROUND INFORMATION regarding the "Possible responsible parties", see for example the info about indias nuclear test some years earlier or, as i have mentioned before, about the security council resolution. it's worth mentioning that there is evidence for nuclear collaboration between these 2 countries although the incident in question 'might' have been unaffected by it.--Severino (talk) 14:08, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

WP:SYNTH Socrates2008 (Talk) 12:51, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

WP:SYNTH says, source A and source B must not be combined to advance a certain position. but as far as i can see that's not the case here and that was also not your original point (objection to include the material). --Severino (talk) 16:26, 21 July 2010 (UTC)

Source A = The Guardian; Source B = Vela incident references. There is no source that makes any connection between A and B, so for a WP editor to imply or assert that these event are linked is WP:SYNTH or WP:OR. Does that help? Socrates2008 (Talk) 11:58, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

you should better read what WP:SYNTH says:

if one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources.

nobody has claimed (in this article) that SINCE israel and apartheid south africa collaborated in nuclear matters (a fact which does not depend on this guardian article, by the way), the possibility that israel was involved, is considerable. that would meet the definition. the article is about the vela incident and the subsection (in which the information in question was inserted) is about possible responsible parties. the section contains information about nuclear activities of these countries, their ties with apartheid ZA, and so on.--Severino (talk) 16:48, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

"if one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources." Brilliantly said. So let's not beat about the bush. Linking the Guardian information (A) with this article (B) implies that the Vela incident was a nuclear explosion caused by an Israeli nuclear device sold to the South Africans ("a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources"). Why else would you mention this here other than to try to lead people to this highly speculative conclusion? Anyway, it is a completely unreferenced inference, and furthermore, contradicts some very well-respected (and well referenced) scientists such as David Albright, who witnessed the dismantling of the SA nuclear program. This is not a discussion forum for arbitrary personal theories, it's supposed to be an encyclopedia. Socrates2008 (Talk) 12:56, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

source A with SOURCE B, not source A "with" an article...thats what the wikipedia guidelines say. also, the conclusion you mentioned, is not implied by the source, i indicated several times to the context in the, albright and others who can be qualified as witnesses of the ZA nuclear program say (with credibility) that the ZA nuclear weapons were home made. that's no contradiction to nuclear collaboration between apartheid south africa and IL, which was based on the principle know how for uranium. and also no contradiction to a possible testing of a nuclear weapon by israel near the prince edward islands with the consent of south africa, but that's something which was not claimed. the extent of the nuclear collaboration between the countries is not known yet and maybe will never be.--Severino (talk) 16:58, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Source A=Guardian;B=article refs like Albright. I appreciate the ways that you are trying join the dots, but where's the reference for this (non-contradictory) speculation please? Socrates2008 (Talk) 13:02, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

A and B were not JOINED to imply a conclusion. which speculation do you mean? the nuclear collaboration between the 2 countries is more than that. an israeli involvement in a nuclear test which was recorded by the vela satellite (if it was a nuclear explosion) is speculation, but it was not claimed or implied by inserting the information from the guardian article. i wanted to say that such an involvement would be no contradiction to the accepted facts regarding the south african nuclear program as you have suggested.--Severino (talk) 17:27, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Inserting the Guardian article as a source, when it contains nothing about the Vela Incident, implies that greater evidence exists for the theory that Israel was involved in the Vela Incident when in fact there are no reliable sources which indicate this to have been the case. In fact, the make-up of the South African nuclear program probably argues against Israeli and South African co-operation, as the South African program used a unique uranium enrichment process which does not match the descriptions of the Israeli enrichment process and the South African bombs were of a very primitive design far inferior to the implosion weapons with which Israel is now reportedly equipped. One would presume that a country with access to the nuclear know-how of another would not need to spend so much time and money to reinvent the wheel. Impi (talk) 22:22, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

south african officials claim "their" enrichment process was unique and self developed but there are also a lot of hints they "bought" it from the germans or somebody else. there is also enough evidence for cooperation between apartheid south africa and israel in military matters which included also delievery systems for nuclear weapons (jericho missile) and sales of uranium. the cooperation could have stretched out to israeli help in the development in the "south african" enrichment process, for the design of theZA bombs - and joint testing. but thats speculation (as much as many of your "pleadings"), the true extent of the cooperation is not known. for the moment i don't insist in inserting the information in question although i believe that "technically" it would be justified.--Severino (talk) 07:23, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

No, independent observers from the IAEA confirm that the process was unique, which implies it must have been self-developed because no other country, including the Germans, had produced a plant using that process. And yes, while there is evidence of South African and Israeli co-operation on a number of military projects, with the RSA/Jericho missile range being perhaps the most prominent, there remains no reliable evidence of similar co-operation with the South African nuclear program and indeed the available evidence that has emerged from the IAEA's reporting suggests against such co-operation. That's not speculation, it's fact. But implying that such a partnership existed without any actual evidence to support that conclusion would undoubtedly be speculation and therefore has no place in this article. Impi (talk) 10:53, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

Find a reliable source that says all this, and no-one will have any issue with the inclusion of this information. Until then, please don't speculate in the article, or try to lead readers to a particular conclusion by presenting unrelated information in such a way that would suggest that certain events were somehow connected. Socrates2008 (Talk) 09:23, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

which IAEA observers, do you have a source? also, even if the enrichment process the south africans used in their plants would not be(en) used somewhere else (it's undoubtly very similar to the one developed and used in karlsruhe), that would NOT rule out the possibility that another side has helped them in developing this process. there is enough evidence for nuclear collaboration between apartheid south africa and israel. the missile project was part of this collaboartion as they were intended as delievery system for nuclear warheads. in the IL-SA relations article there is SOME further referenced information about (although someone tries to delete it right now..). the guardian article in question was another source.--Severino (talk) 08:56, 28 July 2010 (UTC)

Full references please in order to include these theories in the article... Socrates2008 (Talk) 11:48, 28 July 2010 (UTC)


It is out of question that a Vela satellite has detected a double flash (or at least an unusual signal), isn't it? The interpretation of the signal is disputed, whereupon the thesis of a nuclear test as the cause is/was supported by serious institutions like the Naval Research Laboratory, so that the Vela Incident cannot be categorized as conspiracy theory, I'd say.--Severino (talk) 20:21, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

As you say, the "interpretation of the signal is disputed..." but it's not just disputed. There are numerous conspiracy theories as to what the flash was, who caused it and why. Moreover, the conspiracy theories about a "cover-up" take this into conspiracy theory territory. An anology might be the JFK assassination: there's no dispute that the President was killed, but numerous conspiracy theories about who did it, how and why. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 23:30, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
OK. But still I'm uncertain if this "policy" doesn't lead somebody who wants to read up on the case on the basis of this article to the conclusion that the whole thing is comparable with the supposed landing of martians in Area 51.--Severino (talk) 10:47, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
... what? That makes no logical sense whatsoever. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 15:46, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Another explanation of the double flash?[edit]

Uhh, a number of well-known meteor showers (that is, flashes that are KNOWN to be meteors) have double flashes, ie, in a time exposure, using ascii graphics, the trail looks something like:


In many cases surviving meteorites from these falls have been recovered and found to be stony-iron. The hypothesis is that the two flashes represent the separate ignition points of the stony and the metallic components. Or is this too boring a theory? Old_Wombat (talk) 12:14, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

WP:OR Socrates2008 (Talk) 12:20, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, Socrates, you're probably right. Here is an image of the 2001 Leonid shower, showing an excellent double flash. Of course this contributes nothing to the OR issue. But it is some extra information that wasn't on this page before. Old_Wombat (talk) 07:30, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

broken link to los alamos, and correct url[edit]

Hello, everyone :)

Citation number 16, which should link to an article at Los Alamos called "Blast from the past, Los Alamos scientists receive vindication", the link is broken.

But I rooted around on their site and found what looks like the same article at

Forgive me, please, but I don't really know the rules here about editing it myself, so I thought I'd post it in here and one of you veterans could check it out.

Thanks very much!

'Possum Redpossum (talk) 17:23, 14 January 2012 (UTC)


i know it's not an ap article. it's sourced by nuclearweaponarchive which refers (inter alia) to haaretz. and now you tell me what is not reliable on this ref.--Severino (talk) 23:45, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Who's the author? Are they a reliable source? Where was this article originally published? When was it published? All we know is that some of its content was apparently sourced from an unknown AP article that in turn appears to be derived from an unknown Haaretz article. So it fails WP:V on a number of points. Socrates2008 (Talk) 23:57, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
no, you have to say why nuclearweaponarchive for itself is not a reliable source.---Severino (talk)
The NWA source you provided is basically a tertiary source as it merely aggregates other reports. It could possibly be a secondary source but it has no author and no references. It refers to an article allegedly published in Haaretz, although it only notes the date and not the author or headline. The proper reference should be directly to the Haaretz article. Simishag (talk) 02:33, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
the guidelines regarding secondary/tertiary sources do not exclude their use, on the contrary. but i will add another source which confirms the information in question.--Severino (talk) 18:33, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
I've removed it again. Next time you re-add it without consensus, I shall seek intervention by an administrator. Please work with other editors seeking to improve the referencing in the article rather than against them. Socrates2008 (Talk) 21:46, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
the source in question violates which points of WP:V? secondary and tertiary sources are not excluded as i've already mentioned. which points of the "Sources that are usually not reliable" section does it match? has nwa been discussed on the reliable sources noticeboard?
also, i don't understand this edit. the article was in the "further reading" section. even if it makes a point that is not up to date, it's not useless.--Severino (talk) 08:10, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
WP:SOURCES (we don't know who wrote it or published it; it may even be a blog...)
Pahad knew absolutely nothing about the Apartheid-era nuclear programme. He was repeating rumours that were initially misconstrued to be an official statement from the government before he issued a retraction (see refs in the article). There was therefore no admission, so it would be misleading to link to it per point 2) of WP:ELNO. Socrates2008 (Talk) 03:10, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

Article restructure[edit]

The "Subsequent developments" section is bolted on to the end of the article as an afterthought. It's not chronological (some of the things mentioned were not subsequent developments). The bullet points are disjointed, and not prose in compliance with the manual of style. So I'd like to restructure and copyedit a large chunk of the article. Is there any support for doing this? Socrates2008 (Talk) 10:55, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Pokhran-II Official Respond to India's Nuclear Test[edit]

Hi. I'm not scientist. It's just one info I've found inside other wikipedia article. [8]

"However, other nations, such as Israel, France and Russia, did not condemn India's tests. Israel issued a statement praising India's tests and declaring that India's reasons for carrying out nuclear tests were the same as Israel's.[9]" ^ Air vice-chief in Israel to clinch deal. Statesman (India) April 03, 2001

I haven't read this statement, Maybe some of you guys did it. But if they officially issued a statement supporting Pokhran-II test -> And they said "were the same as Israel's" -> isn't it admitting there WAS a test? Doesn't need to be Vela Incident, but I guess there aren't many other possibilities? If you think so, maybe this should be included in this article? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:15, February 12, 2012‎

Vela Hotel?[edit]

This article refers to the detecting satellite as Vela Hotel model whereas Vela (satellite) states it was the Advanced Vela model which was designed to detect atmospheric detonations, should references to Hotel be replaced with Advanced or just referred to as Vela?

Vela was the overall project for detecting clandestine nuclear tests. Vela Hotel was the satellite detection system; Vela Uniform was the seismic systems. Vela Sierra was sensing through the atmosphere (for radioactive species) [this last from the wikipedia article "Project Vela", as I forgot the name - you could have found it yourself, I'll bet.]. Sierra Hotel was the project in which all Vela satellites were launched, operated and eventually abandoned. SkoreKeep (talk) 07:27, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

Quote & source[edit]

There's an interesting bit about the Vela incident in this Guardian article, in particular the quote: "There was a storm and we figured it would block Vela, but there was a gap in the weather – a window – and Vela got blinded by the flash." That differs from the Gerhardt quote already in the article, but appears to back it up. Perhaps this could be incorporated into the article. Modest Genius talk 15:02, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

Edit on February 12 2014[edit]

Added a wikilink to "extraterrestrial" in the 'Detection' section. Added a wikilink to "Bell Island" in conjunction with the 'Bell Island Boom'.

TheInformativePanda (talk) 04:54, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

Los Alamos link broken again[edit]

Hey guys, The link in the references section called "Blast from the past: Los Alamos Scientists Receive Vindication" is broken again. I posted back in January 2012 last time they broke it, and offered a new address. Some good-hearted soul updated the link then, but now it's broken again. I spent 5 minutes or so working with the search engine on the Los Alamos site, but it looks like the article is just gone. Maybe this is just normal sunsetting of old data, or maybe somebody still doesn't want this info in public view. Chau, Possum Redpossum (talk) 00:01, 1 July 2014 (UTC)


Is there any information on steps form the USSR to investigate ? We know that the US sent some naval assets to the location and that the report came from a US Vela satellite but what about the USSR ? (talk) 17:12, 22 May 2015 (UTC)

"Highly disputed"[edit]

Isn't "highly disputed" somewhat colloquial and emotive for an encyclopaedia?Royalcourtier (talk) 22:13, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

NPOV issue: developments and new sources about those developments[edit]

Vela Incident: South Atlantic Mystery Flash in September 1979 Raised Questions about Nuclear Test National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 570 (December 8, 2016) Edited by William Burr and Avner Cohen

CIA Panel Found Evidence “Consistent” with a “Nuclear Explosion in Outer Space” But White House Board Later Disagreed Critics Labeled White House Report a “Whitewash” New Declassified Records Deepen the Debate on the 22 September 1979 Event – Including Whether Israel and South Africa Were Involved. Johnvr4 (talk) 16:53, 8 December 2016 (UTC)