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Iran accidentally sinks its mock US aircraft carrier, blocking key waterway

Satellite imagery published by Forbes shows ship capsized at 90 degrees in middle of strategic passageway that Tehran needs clear to transport other vessels

In video released on July 28, 2020, an explosion is seen next to a mock US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz during military exercises held by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Screen capture/Twitter)
In video released on July 28, 2020, an explosion is seen next to a mock US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz during military exercises held by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Screen capture/Twitter)

A replica US aircraft carrier that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in a propaganda video less than a month and a half ago appears to have capsized in the Strait of Hormuz, blocking a key shipping channel.

Satellite imagery from Aurora Intel published in a Forbes report earlier this week shows the carrier listing at roughly 90 degrees with the starboard side facing upwards.

The vessel was “listing steeply to one side, with nearly half of the flight deck submerged,” the report said.

Despite firing missiles at it, the vessel is “actually an elaborate target barge, and is not intended to sink,” Forbes said. “It is meant to be reusable and has been symbolically ‘destroyed’ twice already.”

The replica carrier is located near the harbor entrance to Bandar Abbas — a main approach channel in the Strait of Hormuz, Forbes said. The report added that the water there is only 45 feet deep, which will make it almost impossible for the ship to sink entirely. As a result, Iranian forces will likely be tasked with recovering the carrier in order to prevent it from causing damage to other ships of the regime trying to sail through that area.

The large carrier was painted with US Navy logos, Forbes said, adding that it was built around 2013 before being destroyed in another “war games” exercise in 2015. It was repaired recently ahead of the June 28 drill called the “Great Prophet 14.”

In that drill, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting the carrier in an exercise aimed at threatening the US amid tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired by the regime that day. Other footage showed fast boats encircling the mock-up, kicking up white waves in their wake.

Iranian troops also fired anti-aircraft batteries at a drone target in the exercise from a location that state television described as being near the port city of Bandar Abbas. Troops then fired missiles launched from trucks on land and fast boats at sea, as well as shoulder-fired missiles.

The Revolutionary Guard used “long-range ballistic missiles with the ability to hit far-reaching aggressor floating targets” during the drill, said Abbas Nilforoushan, the Guard’s deputy commander for operations, according to Guard website sepahnews.com. That suggests the drill could see a repeat of what happened in 2015, when the Guard mock-sunk a replica.

State TV footage also showed Guard scuba forces underwater, followed by a cutaway to a blast hole just above the waterline on the replica carrier.

That appeared to be a not-so-subtle reminder of US accusations last year that Iran planted limpet mines on passing oil tankers near the strait, which exploded on the vessels in the same area. Iran has repeatedly denied the actions, though footage captured by the American military showed Guard members remove an unexploded mine from one vessel.

The replica used in the drill resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the US Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway. The USS Nimitz, the namesake of the class, just entered Mideast waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, likely to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea.

It remains unclear when or if the Nimitz will pass through the Strait of Hormuz or not during its time in the region. The USS Abraham Lincoln, deployed last year as tensions initially spiked, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading through the strait. The Eisenhower came through the strait early last week.

To Iran, which shares the strait with Oman, the American naval presence is akin to Iranian forces sailing into the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Florida. But the US Navy stresses the strait is an international waterway crucial to global shipping and energy supplies. Even as America now relies less on Middle East oil, a major disruption in the region could see prices rapidly rise.

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