Washington: 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?”
Navy and other American intelligence analysts surmise that the vessel, which 5th Fleet wags have nicknamed the Target Barge, is something that Iran could tow to sea, anchor and blow up – while filming the whole thing to make a propaganda point, if, say, the talks with the Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program go south.
Iran has previously used barges as targets for missile firings during training exercises, filmed the episodes and then televised them on the state-run news media, Navy officials said.
When the mock-up will take its maiden voyage – if it ever does – is anyone’s guess, analysts said. The vessel is nearing completion, they said, and will presumably be shipped by rail on tracks that run through the shipyard, to its destiny in the Persian Gulf just a few hundred yards away.
Full article: Why is Iran building a mock US aircraft carrier? (The Age)