Iranian media on Tuesday reported that a Revolutionary Guard helicopter has fired a Cruise missile at the replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf during military exercises dubbed as The Great Prophet-14 (Payambar-e Azam 14).
A report aired by the state-run television (IRIB) showed a helicopter firing a missile at the replica. From the footage shown it appears that the missile hit the side of the mock aircraft carrier or landed in the water very close to it.
Iran had moved the mock aircraft carrier with 16 mock-ups of fighter jets on its deck from the southern port of Bandar Abbas to the west of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf on Monday to use it as a target for live-fire drills.
The replica resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the U.S. Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz. The USS Nimitz, the namesake of the class, just entered Mideast waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, likely to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea.
The United States Navy criticized Iran as "irresponsible and reckless" for conducting an exercise involving firing a missile at a replica aircraft carrier.
"We are aware of the Iranian exercise involving attacking a mock-up of a vessel similar to a motionless aircraft carrier," U.S. Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich told AFP.
"While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behavior 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."
Report aired by state-run television showing the firing of a missile at the dummy aircraft
According to the Iranian media, the drills are held jointly by the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Force and Naval Force.
On June 26 Brigadier-General Hossein Dehqan (Dehghan), a military advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Aljazeera that preparing the replica had "no message" but if there was a message it would be "We will strike back if you strike".
In March 2014 the Iranian military fired four missiles at a replica ship which resembled a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier during Great Prophet-9 wargames (Payambar-e Azam 9). The missiles did not sink the replica and the Revolutionary Guard claimed that it had been built to be used repeatedly so was "unsinkable".
The dummy ship was, however, sank in February 2015, during the height of nuclear talks with world powers which led to the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015.
The drill which is to be continued on Wednesday is held amid high tensions between Iran and the United States.
On Thursday a U.S. fighter jet intercepted an Iranian airliner belonging to Mahan Airlines en route to Beirut over Syria and close to Al-Tanf American military base near Homs.
The airline is closely linked to the Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. military said it was a routine inspection carried out within a safe distance according to international standards.
The Revolutionary Guard troops on Tuesday also fired anti-aircraft batteries at a drone target from a location that the IRIB report said was close to the port city of Bandar Abbas.
“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mock-up, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or exercise scenario,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press on Monday. “We do not seek conflict, but remain ready to defend U.S. forces and interests from maritime threats in the region,” she said.
Iranian media on Tuesday also reported that "for the first time" the Revolutionary Guard is using the images received from Noor (Nour) satellite which was launched in April to monitor the final stage of the drills.
The satellite was launched into orbit by the Revolutionary Guard on April 22. The Pentagon has downplayed the military satellite as "a tumbling webcam in space" and said it does not have imaging capabilities as Iran claims.