Is Iran Going to Try to Sink Another Fake U.S. Aircraft Carrier?

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In the wake of a series of mysterious explosions and fires inside Iran, the regime seems to be preparing another military show by blowing up a fake U.S. aircraft carrier (RELATED: Iranian Explosions and Fires – Foreign Attacks or Internal Sabotage?). Satellite imagery shows the mockup model of a U.S. Nimitz class supercarrier being towed out of the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas and heading out to the Persian Gulf. The replica has fake aircraft models on deck as well. Target practice for Iranian forces may be next.

But what is the point?

Iran previously conducted a similar stunt in 2015. We can expect the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) to use the mockup for live-fire drills like those it conducted during that “Great prophet” exercise. However, these exercises have little realistic training value and serve more as symbolic propaganda. As reported by the Washington Post:

The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which patrols Mideast waterways, remains “confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat,” said spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich when asked about the faux carrier’s movements.

SEE ALSO: U.S. Marine Amphibious ‘Carrier’ Deploys to Persian Gulf

“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mockup, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or exercise scenario,” Rebarich told The Associated Press.

In the 2015 demonstration, the Iranians swarmed the 2/3 sized replica with speedboats firing machine guns and rockets, noted The Post, and even an explosive boat like those now used in Yemen, before destroying it with surface-launched anti-ship missiles.  It made for great propaganda videos and chest-thumping by Iran.

These small boat swarms and missile attack tactics do pose a threat to U.S. naval assets in the Gulf, though, and the Navy takes them seriously. It has developed new coordinated tactics and is deploying new weapons systems designed specifically to counter these threats.

Among these countermeasures noted The Drive, “U.S. Air Force AC-130W Stinger II gunship recently conducted a first-of-its-kind training exercise in the Persian Gulf with U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes and Cyclone class patrol boats…” as a “formidable means of defeating swarms of small boats” (RELATED: U.S. Forces Destroy Practice Target in Persian Gulf).

While the Iranian tactics are a threat, sinking a U.S. carrier is a lot harder than trying to sink a 2/3 sized floating model.

The Iranians should have learned this in 2015, when, despite all the firepower launched against the built-up, undefended barge, and the fiery show of its destruction, the fake ship didn’t actually sink. According to Naval News:

After it was wrecked during the Great Prophet IX exercises it was towed back to Bandar Abbas, Iran’s main naval base. It was soon discarded, anchored outside the breakwater.

Then in early August 2019 it was brought inside the protection of the outer wall. Repairs were carried out, the deck painted and fake aircraft put back on deck.

So, what else can the Iranians and U.S. military expect from the planned attack on this dummy carrier? Most likely, a demonstration of new weapons. As Naval News explains, “these could include the indigenous Jask-2 submarine-launched anti-ship missile. More interestingly from an intelligence standpoint, we may see remote-controlled explosive boats similar to those employed by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.”

Then there are Iran’s more dangerous ballistic missiles. In the satellite images, a bullseye can be seen on the center of the replica’s flight deck. Naval News suggests this could be an aiming point for the Fateh-110 guided ballistic missile believed to have been used in the attack on U.S. forces in Iraq earlier this year. These missiles are also “believed to have an anti-ship capability and were reportedly used in the 2015 exercise.”

Stay tuned for more on Iran’s show of attacking an undefended, 2/3 sized replica of a US aircraft carrier. It should provide a good fireworks show, more Iranian propaganda videos, and maybe also some new intelligence on Iranian weapons and tactics.

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Paul Crespo

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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