For nearly a year Iran has been building a two-thirds replica of an American Nimitz class aircraft carrier. It’s basically a barge with the carrier deck and “island” up top. Included is the number (68) of the USS Nimitz painted on the Iranian ship. U.S. Naval intelligence officers, who have watched the Iranian vessel take shape via satellite photos, have 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. If American intel knows anything about what Iranian officials have said to each other about the barge they aren’t talking (a typical procedure to keep from the enemy details of how you are eavesdropping).
Some analysts believe the Target Barge was built for some propaganda function. Perhaps it will be blown up for a propaganda video or used as a prop in one or more propaganda movies. Such entertainments are important for the Iranian leadership as their core supporters are among the less educated and more easily impressed. All the press releases of new Iranian weapons that are more spin than substance are for this lot, who provide the muscle needed to keep most Iranians in line. For over a year now Iranian media, and Iranian press officials have been talking up the possibility of an American air attack on Iran. Some of the warplanes would come from American carriers that are frequently seen off the Iranian coasts. The Iranian people are prepared to cheer an news that involves Iranians putting the hurt on one of those Nimitz class carriers, be the damage real or simulated.
Some Iranian media have reported that the Target Barge is 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. The USS Nimitz was not anywhere near Iran when Flight 655 was shot down. Nimitz was then (July) 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. That goes over well with Iranian audiences.