Iran appears to be be building a non-functioning mock-up of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. The mock-up appears to be more of a barge, is not nuclear powered, doesn’t really look all that much like the Nimitz and is only about 2/3 the size of the aircraft carrier. There are reports that the vessel does have Nimitz’s number 68 painted in white near the bow and that mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck.
The interesting question is, why? Reporting in the New York Times quotes Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth 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 Fifth 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.
Others have suggested that the barge might be useful for practicing attacks on US carriers. The limitation of this approach is that US carriers operate as part of a carrier battle group which typically include a guided missile cruiser, two or three destroyers, a submarine and a supply ship. Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to the post.