India extends repatriation mission in Gulf region

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Iran has moved a mock aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US, satellite photographs released Monday show, likely signaling the Islamic Republic soon plans to use it for live-fire drills.
An image from Maxar Technologies taken 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 percent 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.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which patrols Mideast waterways, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The replica resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the US Navy routinely sails into the Arabian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway. 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.
It remains unclear when or if the Nimitz will pass through the Strait of Hormuz or not during its time in the Mideast. The USS Abraham Lincoln, deployed last year as tensions initially spiked, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading through the strait. The Eisenhower came through the strait early last week.
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 meters long and 50 meters wide. A real Nimitz is over 300 meters long and 75 meters wide.
The mock-up strongly resembles a similar one used in February 2015 during a military exercise called “Great Prophet 9.” 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.
That drill, however, came as Iran and world powers remained locked in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program. Today, the deal born of those negotiations is in tatters. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in May 2018. Iran later responded by slowly abandoning nearly every tenant of the agreement, though it still allows UN inspectors access to its nuclear sites.
Given the timing of Iran moving the replica to sea, with satellite photos showing it being tugged out of port on Saturday, 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.

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