DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran has moved an aircraft carrier into the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the United States, satellite images released Monday said the Islamic Republic may soon plan to use it for live fire training.
A photo from Maxar Technologies, taken on Sunday, shows the fast speed of an Iranian boat to a carrier sending waves after a tug after a tug pulled it into the strait from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
Iranian state media and officials still do not recognize the export of the replica to the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world̵
The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which patrols coastal waterways, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The line resembles Nimitz-class carriers that the U.S. Navy routinely sails in the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway. The USS Nimitz, the namesake of the class that just entered coastal waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, is likely to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea.
It remains unclear when or whether Nimetz will cross the Strait of Hormuz or not during his time in the Middle Coast. U.S. official Abraham Lincoln, who was stationed last year because tensions had initially risen, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading across the strait. Eisenhower crossed the strait early last week.
The replica carries 16 models of fighters on its deck, according to satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies. The ship appears to be about 200 meters long and 50 meters (160 feet) wide. The real Nimetz is over 300 meters long and 75 meters (245 feet) wide.
The model strongly resembles a similar one used in February 2015 during a military exercise called “The Great Prophet 9”. During this exercise, Iran flooded the fake aircraft carrier with speedboats firing machine guns and missiles. Later, surface-to-sea missiles aimed and destroyed the counterfeit carrier.
However, this training came as Iran and world powers remained locked in talks on Tehran’s nuclear program. Today, the deal born of these negotiations is in notebooks. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the agreement in May 2018. Later, Iran responded by slowly giving up almost any tenant to the agreement, although it still allows UN inspectors access to its nuclear facilities.
There were a series of attacks and incidents last summer that further escalated tensions between Iran and the United States. They reached a crisis with a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 near Baghdad International Airport that killed Kassim Soleimani, head of the Quds Guard Expedition, or Jerusalem, forces, and Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack that wounded dozens of US troops stationed in neighboring Iraq.
Given the timing of the replica’s move to Iran, as satellite images show it was pulled out of port on Saturday, an exercise aimed at it could be a direct response from Tehran to an incident last week. The incident involved a US F-15 fighter approaching a Mahan Air flight over Syria, which saw passengers on the Iranian plane injured.