Iran moves mock-up US carrier to Strait of Hormuz

Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.
Monday 27/07/2020
A mockup aircraft carrier, centre left, built by Iran is seen at Bandar Abbas, Iran, before being put to sea. (REUTERS)
A mockup aircraft carrier, centre left, built by Iran is seen at Bandar Abbas, Iran, before being put to sea. (REUTERS)

DUBAI--Iran has moved a mock-up US aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, satellite images show, suggesting it will use the look-alike vessel for target practice in war games in a Gulf shipping channel vital to world oil exports.

The use of dummy American warships has become an occasional feature of training by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its naval forces, including in 2015 when Iranian missiles hit a mock-up resembling a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Tehran frequently holds naval war games in the strategic Strait, the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.

One of the images taken on July 26 by US-based space technology firm Maxar Technologies showed an Iranian fast attack boat moving toward the model US carrier in the strategic waterway. Another image showed model planes lined up on the deck of the fake carrier.

Satellite image shows Iran’s refurbished mockup aircraft carrier at its home port of Bandar Abbas. (REUTERS)
Satellite image shows Iran’s refurbished mockup aircraft carrier at its home port of Bandar Abbas. (REUTERS)

“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mock-up, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or offensive exercise scenario,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

“We remain confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.”

Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have sharply dropped Tehran’s oil exports.

Iran’s Guards in April said Tehran would destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.

US officials have said closing the Strait would be crossing a “red line” and America would take action to reopen it.

As Tehran seems inclined to wait out the current US administration in hope that November elections would remove President Donald Trump from the White House, Washington continues to seek further isolation of Iran through international pressures.

The US special representative for Iran called Sunday for a renewed arms embargo on Tehran.

“I’ve spoken with leaders here in the Gulf and around the world — no one believes that Iran should be able to freely buy and sell conventional weapons such as fighter jets… and various kinds of missiles,” Brian Hook told journalists in an online briefing while on a visit to Qatar.

The United States has urged the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran that expires in October.

The extension is opposed by veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to gain major arms contracts from Iran.

“If the Security Council fails to extend the arms embargo by October 18, Iran will be able to freely buy and sell these weapons,” Hook said.

Brian Hook , the US special envoy for Iran, gestures during an interview in Paris, June 27.  (AP)
Brian Hook , the US special envoy for Iran, gestures during an interview in Paris, June 27.  (AP)

“Imagine what the region will look like if this happens, conflicts in places like Syria and Yemen will certainly intensify.”

US arch-foe Iran is a key player on the side of the Syrian government in the country’s conflict and is aligned with Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting the internationally-recognised government, supported by a coalition led by US ally Saudi Arabia.

Washington has warned it could employ a disputed legal move to restore wide UN sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not prolong a ban on conventional arms sales to the Islamic republic.