The (real) USS Nimitz
The (real) USS Nimitz Photo by Wikimedia Commons
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Iran is building a mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, possibly with the intention of blowing it up for propaganda value, according to a report in the New York Times.

The vessel is being constructed in the Gachin shipyard, near Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf. United States intelligence analysts first noticed it last summer from satellite photos of Iranian military installations.

The ship has the same distinctive shape and style of the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, as well as the Nimitz’s number 68 neatly painted in white near the bow. Mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck.

American officials said that the mock-up has no nuclear propulsion system and is only about two-thirds the length of a typical 1,100-foot-long Navy 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 Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

Intelligence analysts believe that the vessel is something that Iran could tow to sea, anchor and blow up — while filming the whole thing to make a propaganda point. 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.

The U.S. officials cited a photograph taken on late February in Bandar Abbas and a brief description in Persian of the vessel on a website for Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade. Iran has not taken any steps to hide the mock-up from Western satellites.

The New York Times was unable to reach Iranian Navy officials for comment.