Iran has moved a mock aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US, satellite photographs show, likely signalling the Islamic Republic soon plans to use it for live-fire drills.
An image from Maxar Technologies taken on Sunday shows an Iranian fast boat speed toward the carrier, sending waves up in its wake, after a tugboat pulled her out into the strait from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
Iranian state media and officials have yet to acknowledge bringing the replica out to the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of the world's oil passes.
However, its appearance there suggests Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard is preparing an encore of a similar mock-sinking it conducted in 2015.
During that drill, Iran swarmed the fake aircraft carrier with speedboats firing machine guns and rockets. Surface-to-sea missiles later targeted and destroyed the fake carrier.
The replica resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the US Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway.
The replica carries 16 mock-ups of fighter jets on its deck, according to the satellite photos taken by Maxar Technologies.
The vessel appears to be some 200 metres long and 50 metres wide. A real Nimitz is over 300 metres long and 75 metres wide.
Last summer saw a series of attacks and incidents ramp up tensions between Iran and the US.
They reached a crescendo with the January 3 US drone strike near Baghdad International Airport that killed Qassim Soleimani, head of the Guard's expeditionary Quds, or Jerusalem, Force.
Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack that injured dozens of American troops stationed in neighbouring Iraq.
Given the timing of Iran moving the replica to sea, a drill targeting it may be a direct response from Tehran to an incident last week.
That event involved a US F-15 fighter jet approaching a Mahan Air flight over Syria, which saw passengers on the Iranian jetliner injured.
Australian Associated Press