Iran has accidentally sunk a replica US aircraft carrier which was recently blasted with missiles in a propaganda video.
The modified barge – designed to look like a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier – is listing at 90 degrees in Gulf waters after after capsizing near the sensitive Strait of Hormuz, according to Forbes.
Half of the ‘flight deck’ is now underwater and the vessel is now endangering other ships sailing through the Strait, it is claimed.
The apparent blunder comes just days after the dummy warship was blasted by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards in a round of Iranian war games which the Pentagon condemned as ‘irresponsible and reckless’.
Capsized: An Iranian mock-up of a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is listing in sensitive Gulf waters just days after it was blasted with missiles in a propaganda video
Under fire: An explosion on the mock-up aircraft carrier with model planes on the flight deck, in footage broadcast by Iranian TV at the end of last month
Satellite imagery published by Aurora Intel last week showed the bogus aircraft carrier listing on its side in waters which are less than 50ft deep.
Iranian authorities may be forced into a cumbersome salvage operation because the wreckage could be a hazard for other ships, it is believed.
Around a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz and ships have previously been harassed by Iranian guards while passing through the lane.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting the commercial ships in the area.
According to Forbes, the fake vessel is the same one which was hit by Iranian missiles and then repaired after a previous round of war games in 2015.
The vessel was moved to the Strait of Hormuz earlier this year with model planes lined up on the dummy flight deck.
State television reported in late July that the Revolutionary Guards had blasted the vessel with missiles during military exercises dubbed ‘Prophet Mohammed 14th’.
Footage of the war games broadcast on state TV showed the Guards’ air and naval forces readying for an attack off the country’s southwestern coast.
One missile fired from a helicopter left a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship.
Armed forces were then seen abseiling onto the deck of the vessel, before around a dozen speedboats circled around it.
Surrounded: The mock-up aircraft carrier is surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboats in the propaganda footage last month
Assault: Iranian Guards abseil onto the dummy ‘flight deck’ of the vessel from a helicopter near the Strait of Hormuz
Propaganda: A torpedo hits the dummy US aircraft carrier – which is now listing in Gulf waters and possibly posing a hazard to other ships
‘What was shown today in these exercises, at the level of aerospace and naval forces, was all offensive,’ Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami said.
New long-range missiles were fired during the exercises, a spokesman said.
‘Some surprise equipment and weapons were used, such as long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking offensive floating targets in the distance,’ General Abbas Nilforoushan said.
The US Navy condemned the ‘irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran’, calling it an attempt ‘to intimidate and coerce’.
‘We are aware of the Iranian exercise involving attacking a mock-up of a vessel similar to a motionless aircraft carrier,’ Commander Rebecca Rebarich said.
‘The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce.
‘While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways, this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters.’
She had earlier stressed that ‘we remain confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.
‘We do not seek conflict but remain ready to defend US forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.’
The war games came only days after Tehran accused US fighter jets of harassing an Iranian commercial airliner in the skies over Syria.
Preparation: The vessel was moved to the Strait of Hormuz earlier this year with model planes lined up on the dummy flight deck
The real thing: The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier during a drill in the South China Sea earlier this year
Tensions have escalated between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The arch foes have come to the brink of direct confrontation twice since June 2019, when the Guards shot down a US drone in the Gulf.
Washington blamed Iran for a series of mysterious explosions on Gulf shipping in the summer of 2019, while Tehran denied any involvement.
Tensions reached an alarming peak after Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January 2020.
Donald Trump described Soleimani as a ‘terrorist’ planning ‘imminent attacks’ on US interests through his leadership of the Quds Force, an arm of the Guards.
But Soleimani was revered as a hero in Iran and his death sparked an outpouring of public grief not seen since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, in 1989.
The retaliation eventually came six days after the killing, when Iran fired a barrage of missiles at two US bases in Iraq.
Trump claimed victory after the relatively inconsequential strikes and said no US troops were harmed, although it later emerged that some had suffered brain injuries.
Iran then caused a separate crisis after accidentally shooting down a passenger plane, mistaking it for a US missile – killing dozens of Iranians.
The deaths and attempted cover-up turned the initial wave of public support for the Iranian regime into several days of angry protests.
The crisis subsequently cooled, and quickly became submerged by the coronavirus pandemic in which Iran was an early hotspot.
However, in mid-April the United States accused the Guards of using speedboats to harass its warships in the Gulf.
Iran’s Guards said in April that Tehran would destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.
Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.