The New York Times reported today that Iran is building a non-functioning mock-up of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln at its Gachin shipyard, near Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf. Times said U.S. intelligence analysts studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations first noticed the vessel rising from the shipyard last summer. The barge-type structure has the same distinctive shape and style of the 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.
“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 U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. “We’re not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this. If it is a big propaganda piece, to what end?” (The New York Times, 20 March)
Iran has previously used barges as targets for missile firings during training exercises. It was not clear when the mock-up will take its maiden voyage. Navy officials told the Times that it 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.