As tensions remain high between Iran and the US, the Islamic Republic appears to have constructed a new mock-up of an aircraft carrier off its southern coast for potential live-fire drills. The faux foe, seen in satellite photographs obtained Tuesday by the AP, resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the US Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, which 20% of all the world's oil passes through. While not yet acknowledged by Iranian officials, the replica's appearance in the port city of Bandar Abbas suggests Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard is preparing an encore of a similar mock-sinking it conducted in 2015 in which a fake aircraft carrier was swarmed with speedboats firing machine guns and rockets. Surface-to-sea missiles later targeted and destroyed the fake carrier.
The new replica, which first began to be noticed among defense and intelligence analysts in January and strongly resembles the one used in 2015, carries 16 mock-ups of fighter jets on its deck, per satellite photos taken by Maxar Technologies. The vessel appears to be some 650 feet long and 160 feet wide; a real Nimitz is over 980 feet long and 245 feet wide. Its appearance comes as Iran announced Tuesday it will execute a man it accused of sharing the movements of the Guard's Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whom the US killed in a January drone strike in Baghdad. The announcement shows how seriously Iran still takes the assassination. An exercise targeting a mock US aircraft carrier could send that message as well, particularly if it involves a swarm attack of smaller vessels, which analysts believe Iran would employ if it did get into a shooting war with the US Navy.
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