Late last month, Iran once again put on a show using their fake U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier as a target for military drills and helicopter-fired missiles. The demonstration was intended to show America that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were prepared to take on the mighty U.S. Navy in the strategically valuable Strait of Hormuz. Instead, however, it appears Iran’s plans may have backfired, with the fake aircraft carrier now sunk at the mouth of an economically important harbor–adding a dangerous hazard right in the middle of a shipping lane.
The United States has been at odds with Iran since the nation’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, wherein the ruling dynasty that was supported by the United States was deposed by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Today, Iran and the United States remain locked in an idealogical battle of wills, with Iran directly funding terror organizations the world over through its Al Quds force, and the United States working to support its allies and interests in the Middle East.
The mock Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was first built by Iran in 2013 and completed in 2014. At the time, the large vessel was described as a movie prop. In February of 2015, however, the vessel, which isn’t as large as a real Nimitz-class carrier but was clearly modeled to resemble one, was then used as a target in a series of war games Iran called Great Prophet IX.
The barge-in-aircraft-carrier-clothing was then repaired once again in 2019 and just a few weeks ago, the newly refurbished vessel was towed out into the Strait of Hormuz for another bout of target practice. The Strait of Hormuz is the only route between the Persian Gulf and the open ocean, making it an extremely important waterway in the global oil supply chain. Experts estimate that something in the neighborhood of 20% of all the world’s oil passes over the Strait of Hormuz.
Bandar Abbas, #Iran, Imagery from Google Earth shows restoration is complete to their training Aircraft Carrier, now home to model fighter jets for additional training capabilties. pic.twitter.com/JdPZWl6wat
— Aurora Intel – #StayHome (@AuroraIntel) May 22, 2020
Because of the waterway’s immense importance and it’s proximity to Iran, the Strait of Hormuz is a common site of overt acts of aggression between the U.S. Navy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
And indeed, as we often see Iran threaten to do to America’s real aircraft carriers, Iran TV aired footage of commandos fast-roping onto the deck of the ship from helicopters, as well as fast attack boats swarming around the hulking structure. The spectacle was dubbed “Great Prophet 14,” and culminated with firing on the floating barge with a variety of missiles.
“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,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press.
“We do not seek conflict, but remain ready to defend U.S. forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.”
It seems likely that, although Iran’s fake aircraft carrier is smaller than a real Nimitz-class vessel, it’s used both for training and propaganda. Because Iran’s leaders see the United States as their clear opponent, the use of the the carrier offers a chance to rehearse a great war with the United States without having to suffer the consequences of such a conflict. However, Iran may now be facing a different kind of negative consequence, with the mock carrier taking on water and eventually sinking in an area of the waterway that is not deep enough to allow ships to pass over the sunken target.
New imagery from yesterday shows the capsized #IRGC replica of the Nimitz Class Carrier appears to have listed more outside of Bandar Abbas Port, #Iran. She appears more listed here than previous imagery from the 31st July. The depth here is a reported 14m. Fun to reclaim…. pic.twitter.com/tKTHJAaGCS
— Aurora Intel – #StayHome (@AuroraIntel) August 2, 2020
After the carrier remained somewhat visible for a while, it has since submerged beneath the waters of the Bandar Abbas harbor — which is only 45 feet deep. That means large ships cannot pass over where the carrier came to rest without risking serious damage.
In other words, in Iran’s fervor to show America how effectively it the nation’s military could defend their territorial waters, they inadvertently made it significantly less safe for them to operate in those same waters.
Iran will almost certainly need to attempt to salvage the vessel; not just for the sake of another round of target practice, but because its presence will pose a significant risk to any large ships trying to travel into or out of the harbor it now rests beneath. It isn’t currently clear if Iran even has the means to mount such a salvage effort, however. So, for now, Iran’s fake American aircraft carrier may pose a more direct threat to Iranian interests than the real Nimitz carriers America often sails through the nearby Strait of Hormuz.
This is far from the first big blunder for Iran on the world’s stage this year. In May, the Iranian military unintentionally fired an anti-ship missile at one of their own vessels, killing 19, and in January, Iranian air defenses accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airline, killing all 176 on board.