Fake U.S. ship spotted in Gulf is Iranian ‘movie set’

Satellite photos of what appeared to be a U.S. navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier near Iran had sparked suspicions

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Satellite photos of what looked like one of the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, complete with planes, in the Gulf had sparked suspicions of strange military moves in the area.

It was first believed that Iranians were building a mock-up of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, possibly so they could then blow it up for propaganda purposes, the New York Times reported, citing intelligence sources.

But Iranian media said on Sunday that the replica spotted near the coast of Iran was nothing more sinister than a movie set.

According to newspaper reports, the ship is “part of the décor” for a movie being made by Iranian director Nader Talebzadeh on the 1988 shooting down of an Iran Air civilian plane by the USS Vincennes.

The United States says the downing of the plane, which killed all 290 passengers and crew, was an accident.

"The issue has turned into a good excuse for another wave of hype against Iran," said the Alef news website which carries views close to the official line in Iran.

"Without any proof or real basis, Western media have jumped again to paint a more negative picture of Iran."

A 'head-scratcher'

In comments to Reuters news agency, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain acknowledged that the replica was "more akin to a Hollywood set than a warship."

"We know it's not an actual aircraft carrier. It's made to look like one of ours ... but makes us wonder: what is it all for?" Jason Salata said.

"We've seen them make target barges before and tow them and shoot them out as missile exercises and use it for state-run media. This one is a little bit of a head-scratcher. If you're spending resources on this, what would it be for?"

There has been rising political tensions between Iran and world powers that suspect Tehran’s uranium enrichment program has the ultimate aim of developing a nuclear weapon, despite repeated denials.