Iran has a giant fake aircraft carrier that it has used over the years to practice with during naval drills to show off that it can attack US carriers. Now the lumbering model boat is on the move, satellite photos show.
The US usually has at least one aircraft carrier somewhere near the Persian Gulf. Iran often harassed US naval ships in the Persian Gulf using fast boats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In April, President Donald Trump said the US would sink Iranian boats that harass American warships.
The aircraft carrier is usually docked near the Port of Bandar Abbas. In recent days there was a mysterious explosive noise heard in Qeshm Island, just offshore. In addition, the oil tanker Gulf Sky, which is at the center of an international dispute amid accusations that an IRGC front company bought it, is also anchored off the island, after being allegedly hijacked from the coast of the UAE on July 6.
A Maxar Technologies satellite image located the Iranian fake US carrier offshore from Bandar Abbas and now some 50 km. southeast of where it was before. It is estimated to be 200 meters long and 50 meters wide, some 50%-70% the size of a real aircraft carrier, depending on how you estimate its overall size or displacement.
It is thus not just a floating piece of wood, but a large lumbering beast of a ship – a potential danger to international shipping and one more of Iran's bizarre attempts to intimidate the international community. Iran has been accused of mining six ships in May and June 2019 and also shot down a US drone over the Gulf of Oman in 2019.
The ship has at least 16 fake airplanes on its carrier deck. It was being towed by a boat, and another Iranian fast boat was seen nearby. The carrier, one of the Iranian navy's largest ships, was blown up by Iran in 2015 and then repaired. Iran's navy is otherwise relatively small and no match for the US Navy. One US naval officer quipped last year that the US could destroy the Iranian navy in an afternoon if it wanted to.
At the moment, it appears that the USS Eisenhower, which was off the Persian Gulf earlier this month, is now in the Mediterranean Sea for a drill with the Hellenic Navy. Between July 14 and 20 it made its way from near Oman toward the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
The USS Nimitz has been working recently with the Indian Navy. With the Eisenhower and the USS San Jacinto in the Mediterranean, the Nimitz has now moved to take up station with the Fifth Fleet as part of the need to sustain a carrier strike group presence in the Middle East, joining the fleet on July 24.
The Nimitz brings with her nine squadrons of the Carrier Air Wing and a destroyer squadron with the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton and Arliegh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson, all under the command of Rear Adm. Jim Kirk. A native of Pennsylvania, he took up command of Carrier Strike Group 11 in May.
Kirk shares a name with the fictional television and movie character Admiral James Tiberius Kirk of Star Trek fame. The real-life Admiral Jim Kirk and his carrier group will now help secure around 2.5 million square miles of water, according to the US Navy. According to a 2013 Guardian profile, Kirk does not take offense to comparisons with his fictional media counterpart.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.