Iran has started tugging a mock-up of an American Nimitz-class carrier to the Strait of Hormuz, according to satellite photos captured by Maxar Technologies, AP reported. The vessel was being tugged from the port of Bandar Abbas towards the strategic waterway surrounded by IRGC fast attack boats, according to the photos taken on 26 July.
Iran moves mock aircraft carrier to sea amid U.S. tensions: A satellite image from Maxar Technologies taken Sunday shows an Iranian fast boat speed toward the carrier, sending waves up in its wake. https://t.co/ybml6rw72y pic.twitter.com/X2hlC8xbRY— Marcus Evans ⚛️ 🔬 🔭 (@MarcuswevansSr) July 27, 2020
The mock-up is around 30% smaller than the real-life Nimitz-class supercarrier and hosts 16 replicas of American fighter jets on its top deck, according to the photos. US carriers of this class routinely visit the Persian Gulf despite regular protests by Tehran, arguing that the security of the region must be maintained by the forces of local governments. One of these carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, is about to leave the Arabian Sea with the USS Nimitz coming in to replace it.
A similar replica of the American supercarriers was used in live-fire drills back in 2015, meaning the reported repositioning of the new mock-up might be a signal of upcoming war games. The 2015 drills took place as Iran was still in a deadlock in terms of negotiations regarding its nuclear programme and was yet to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the P5+1 countries and the EU. The possibility of a new drill involving the carrier replica comes at a time when the JCPOA deal is in a shambles due to Washington's actions.
Washington unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran. Tensions between the two states have been escalating ever since, at times even reaching the borderline between an open armed conflict between Washington and Tehran. One of the biggest escalations this year took place in January, after the US assassinated prominent Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Tehran responded with a missile attack on American military bases in Iraq that left numerous servicemen injured but stopped short of leading to fatalities.