back to article Cruise missile streaks across Google Earth

Once in a while, something really interesting pops up on Google Earth, and we're obliged today to reader Christopher Wagner for pointing us the direction of this spendid find in the skies above Utah: Cruise missile as captured on Google Earth Impressive stuff indeed. Here's a closer look: A close-up of the cruise missile …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Black Wings

    From the Google Sightseeing feed:

    "And it was true! While I was asleep over 2500 people Dugg what, at first glance, does look like a cruise missile over Utah. But look closer and you’ll see it’s nothing more than an aeroplane with black wings. Oh well…"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's an MD90!

    It's a MD90 with the outside edges of the wings painted black.


  3. Rick

    Painted Wings

    It is a tomahawk iv cruise missle.. but if you look closely then you'll see the wings are painted a dark colour.

    What's interesting though is the cloaked missle in front of it ;-)

  4. William Donelson

    What airline has black wings?

    What airline has black wings?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I suggest that the missle was banking (turning) during the photo shoot. Black forward wings would be visible on both the right and left sides, which they are not. Also look at the left middle rear wing, at how the front edge overlaps with the body of the airframe, which seems to confirm, in my mind, that the missle is turning.

  6. Reynir Skarsgaard

    AGM-84 Missile

    That´s a pretty cool thing to find on Google Earth. For those wondering what kind of missile it is, that is most likely an AGM-84E air to surface missile.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I stand corrected and concur with the black wings theory. Could not see them at first. But I did see the object's shadow, just north and on the ground.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or this one

    Could be this one:

    Notice you can't see the engines, so they are painted darkly too and the rear of the tail seems to be dark green, like the Mesa-Air dark green wings and engines.

    Plus they fly north across Utah.

  9. Daniel

    Appears to be listing sharply to port, to me

    It may be about to undergo a turn.

  10. Nathan Frederiksen-Billett

    Since when were Tomahawk's rocket motors replaced?

    Unless I am gravely mistaken the Tomahawk is a rocket propelled cruise missile. There are two distinctly visible vapour trails as well as NO fire!! To many people with to much time on their hands... and it seems to few el'Reg hacks with not enough work either ;)

  11. Rich

    It's an airliner

    Both the AGM-86 and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles are powered by a single turbofan engine. If you look at the contrail it's clearly a pair, not a single, which rather suggests an airliner with tail mounted engines. Such as an MD-90 for example.

    Obviously it's not conclusive, but cruise missiles are designed to approach at low level using GPS and terrain following to avoid enemy anti-aircraft and other defences. The fact this one it leaving contrails at all means it must be in very cold air, which means it's very high up, which means it's probably more likely to be an airliner.

  12. Nick Palmer

    Concur that it's an MD90...

    Have a look at; it's a very close match. The TLAM-C Tomahawk has no perceptible wing sweep, whereas the visible wings on this aircraft sweep back. Also, unless the USAF has decided that if you can't beat your enemy, join him, the cockpit glass at the front would be a little out of place ;-)...

  13. TS

    Reflection, not paint

    The wings are not painted black, but the shiny aluminum wings are reflecting the sky above.

    When on the ground, the aluminum reflects the blue sky above. As it climbs higher, the air above gets thinner and at some point (not sure where) the wings reflect only the darkness of space.

  14. Reg

    Gary's gonna get yer.

    I’d say it’s a harpoon missile not a cruise missile. The stubby fins in the middle of the missile body give it away. I’d say somebody has seriously pissed off Gary Busey. Must have an under siege mentality, or maybe Jet Blue cancelled his flight to Hawaii.

  15. Kent Dyche

    Point of Impact

    Follow the trajectory. It looks like an air launched crusie missle headed for the Dugway Proving Grounds.

  16. Lance


    That's one long fuselage. The white on the wings are the engines. What is the resolution of the imagine to give an account of the size. Strange the forward shadow as well.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's an AGM-84

    It's the AGM-84 SLAM-ER cruise missile - see the photo gallery here:

  18. Tom Watson

    The "detail" picture should be clearer

    Somehow all this technology is beyond me. All the crime TV shows here in the USA show that when you zoom in on pictures, they really do become clearer. Some silly conspiracy must be bluring the picture. That is the reason we can't really determine what the object really is! All those CSI shows must be right you know.

    Please engage humor before fully reading this post.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a plane

    It is a plane, it is about 27meters long (about .9 seconds of latitude). Much bigger than a cruise missile.

    Paul O.

  20. Muneer

    Definately not a missile

    Anyone cared to measure the length of the object? It's about 30 meters long! Cruise missiles are usually around 5-7 meters long. This is certainly an aircraft.

  21. Peter Lowden

    Load up GoogleEarth and get your ruler out... measures around 100ft in length (33 meters), that is one hell of a cruise missile!

    A quick look up on aircraft specs though has the MD90 measuring in at 150ft in length though, a cruise missile is only 15-20ft.

    Oh by the way I measure the black wingspan at 70ft.

    Its a plane.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flying below 7,000 ft.

    Hmmm... If it's a plane, it's flying rather low -- well below 7,000 ft. which seems odd to me for a plane the size of the MD90. I agree it's a bit long to be a missile, although I wonder if the scale is accurate for the image resolution. I'm not convinced that the dark bits that look like they're "wings" actually are. Anyways, interesting picture.

  23. Carl Hill

    A Regional Jet

    The CRJ is 87ft long, 69'7" wingspan. Two rear engines, that if painted white under black tail would present that. Unpainted wings could look darker, especially against a fuselage painted white.

    CRJ specs:

    An example of a CRJ with white body, black tail, white engines and apparently unpainted wings:

    Obviously this isn't likely to be a Lufthansa jet but the point is that a real live example exists and probably isn't the only one -- particularly since Air Canada flies these and is also a Star Alliance member. Flyinf over Utah it likely is an Air Canada CRJ.

  24. WOLF

    AGM-86C/D Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile

    The small, winged AGM-86C CALCM is powered by a turbofan jet engine that propels it at sustained subsonic speeds. After launch, the missile's folded wings, tail surfaces, and engine inlet deploy. It then is able to fly complicated routes to a target through the use of an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) coupled with its Inertial Navigation System (INS). This allows the missile to guide itself to the target with pinpoint accuracy.

    WOLF: INTC, SpecOps, Commando, BlackWatch

  25. Richard

    It looks to me like Boeing 757

    It looks like Boeing 757. Exactly like the one which hit Pentagon in in September of 2001.

  26. dave martin

    30m long?

    Tbh this is not painted on the ground.

    Things do appear bigger when they are closer to you.

  27. Brent Russell

    It's an MD90

    Look carefully you'll see the dark delta of the tail planes behind the rear 'fins' which are actually the rear motor pods.

    I dropped a top profile pic of an MD90 from

    over the image and it's a perfect fit. It's the paint job fooling you all.

    Explains the twin contrails close together, the size, even the cockpit window form and position fits the overlay and the apparent large size of the rear 'fins', they are quite big pods.

    Somebody do a check on Airline paint jobs. May not be black though, possibly red wings with loss of colour due to atmospheric effects and the satellites altitude shot was taken from.

    One way to fool any 'watchers' you have heaps of missiles whizzing around with a cunning paint job eh ?

  28. David

    Definatly an airplane

    Looking at the coordinates of the plane and overlaying the airspace system on it, the plane is on a Jetway, J-11, traveling between the Bryce Canyon and Fairfield VOR's.

  29. Dan Goodson

    MD80 (Maybe a CL65) on its way to Salt Lake from PHX

    The image is of an MD80 (Now owned by Boeing) passenger airliner. The light markings on the inboard section of the wing are not engines, but marked-nonskid areas for passengers over-wing evacuations of the aircraft. Two engines, which are visible on the tail and the contrails indicate its not a weapon just an airliner.

    Amazing all the hubbub this has stirred up.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Definitely an aeroplane

    If you look to the top of the picture you can see an odd artefact.

    From my own experience looking at aircraft in flight on Google Earth, they often separate into more than one image (I don't know why this is, but I've seen several examples) leaving the aeroplane dull and dark whilst the bright colours appear as a separate ghost image.

    This appears to be another.

    Can somebody explain why this happens?

    A very clear example can be found at 52°48'51.01"N 1°22'37.11"W

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