Iran is building a nonworking mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that US officials say may be intended to be blown up for propaganda value.
Intelligence analysts studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations first noticed the vessel rising from the Gachin shipyard, near Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf, last summer. The ship has the same distinctive shape and style of the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, as well as the USS Nimitz’s No. 68 neatly painted in white near the bow. Mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck.
The Iranian mock-up, which US officials described as more like a barge than a warship, has no nuclear propulsion system and is only about two-thirds the length of a typical 1,100-foot-long Navy (335 metre) carrier. Intelligence officials do not believe that Iran is capable of building an actual aircraft carrier.
“Based on our observations, this is not a functioning aircraft carrier; it’s a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier,” said Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf from Iran. “We’re not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this. If it is a big propaganda piece, to what end?”
Whatever the purpose, American officials acknowledged Thursday that they wanted to reveal the existence of the vessel to get out ahead of the Iranians.