TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian newspaper reported that the country’s military plans to target a mock-up American aircraft carrier during upcoming war games.
The Sunday report by independent Haft-e Sobh daily quoted Adm. Ali Fadavi, navy chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guards as saying Iranian forces should “target the carrier in the trainings, after it is completed.”
Adm. Fadavi said, “We should learn about weaknesses and strengths of our enemy.”
This was the first reaction by Iranian officials to a March report that said Iran is building a simple replica of the USS Nimitz in a shipyard in the southern port of Bandar Abbas. Iranian officials did not comment then but state TV said it would be used in a movie.
Iran made no attempt to hide its “curious” construction effort, as commercial satellite imagery showed a vessel gradually taking shape, resembling the outlines of a US carrier, three American administration officials said.
“They got this barge and threw some wood on top of it to make it look like the USS Nimitz. That’s all we know for sure,” a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP in March.
“We think they’re going to try to get some propaganda value out of it,” he said. “We find it very curious…We don’t know what Iran hopes to gain by building it.”
Defense officials stressed that the vessel was not a working aircraft carrier, had no nuclear propulsion system and was essentially a barge outfitted to look — but not operate — like a carrier.
The project was first reported by The New York Times, which quoted officials speculating the Iranians may blow up the fake carrier for television cameras as a propaganda exercise.
“It is not surprising that Iranian naval forces might use a variety of tactics — including military deception tactics — to communicate and possibly demonstrate their resolve in the region,” said a third US official, who asked not to be named.
The puzzling project came to light at a moment of lowered tensions with Iran and intense diplomacy, as Washington and major powers try to broker an agreement with Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
Over the past year, Iran has stepped back from assertive maneuvers in the Gulf, officials said, as previously Iranian speed boats had sometimes swarmed around US warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.