Information Warfare: The Target Barge Has Its Close-Up


May 20, 2015: In February 2015 Iran held a large naval exercise where over a hundred coastal missile and torpedo craft carried out mass attacks on a replica of an American nuclear carrier. At the conclusion of the “attack” there was a large explosion on the carrier and the Iranians declared a victory. The Nimitz replica was still afloat and it was towed back to shore and is being repaired. Most of the Iranian attackers were small, fast boats between 8 and 27 meters (26 and 88 feet) long and armed with two torpedoes or two locally made anti-ship missiles, or both plus some automatic weapons. The fast attack boats are nothing new for Iran, but the carrier target is.

Since 2013 Iran was observed (from the air and space) building a two-thirds replica of an American Nimitz class aircraft carrier. It was basically a barge with the carrier deck and “island” up top. Included was the number (68) of the USS Nimitz painted on the replica. U.S. Naval intelligence officers who observed the Iranian vessel take shape via satellite photos called it the Target Barge, in the belief that it might be used by Iranian aircraft or boats to practice attacking a full size Nimitz. Iran has done this before, building mockups of ships and aircraft. Apparently the U.S. analysts were correct because the practice attack took place, was thoroughly captured on video by the Iranians and shown endlessly on Iranian TV.

Back in 2014 some Iranian media opined that the Target Barge was being built as a prop for a movie about Iran Air flight 655, which was shot down by an anti-aircraft missiles fired by an American cruiser in 1988. If that’s the case then it’s a very expensive prop, but it may still be used as a prop or, perhaps the February training exercise was also done for the movie as well.

That said, the USS Nimitz was not anywhere near Iran when Flight 655 was shot down. Nimitz was then (July 1988) in Washington State preparing to head out on a deployment. Nimitz did not arrive off Iran until October 1988. So maybe the movie involves some kind of payback scenario. That goes over well with Iranian audiences as does any video showing things (preferably non-Iranian) getting blown up.



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