A ship nearing completion in Iran looks rather familiar to American eyes: US officials say it's a sort of replica of the Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier—it even has the Nimitz's number 68 painted near the bow—except that it's not actually a working aircraft carrier. "Based on our observations ... it's a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier," a Navy spokesman says, noting it was first spotted on satellite images last summer. "We're not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this." One theory, according to officials: The country could drag it to sea and blow it up while filming the exercise "for propaganda value," if things don't go their way during talks with the West over Iran's nuclear program, the New York Times reports.
US officials don't believe Iran has the wherewithal to build a true aircraft carrier, and note that what has been dubbed the "Target Barge" doesn't have a nuclear propulsion system and clocks in at two-thirds the length of the US version, though it does come with fake fighter jets splayed on the deck. As for why they're revealing the non-threat, they say they just want to show they're a step ahead of the Iranians. What's next for the mock-up? Analysts believe construction in the Gachin shipyard is nearly complete, and speculate that the ship will then be shipped via rail to the Persian Gulf, which sits a few hundred yards away. (Read more Iran stories.)