Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has launched underground ballistic missiles as part of a drill involving a fake U.S. aircraft carrier during military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after the IRGC fired a missile from a helicopter targeting the same carrier. The U.S. military said that ballistic missile fire detected from the exercise resulted in U.S. troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command in Qatar. Troops sought cover during that time.
The replica used in the drill resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the U.S. Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway through which 20 percent of all oil traded in the world passes. The aircraft carrier Nimitz, the namesake of the class, just entered Mideast waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, likely to replace the aircraft carrier 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 aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed last year as tensions initially spiked, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading through the strait.
Footage of the first day of drills broadcast on state television on July 28 showed a missile fired from a helicopter leaving a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship. Other footage from the exercise dubbed Payambar-e Azam 14 (The Great Prophet) showed speedboats encircling the replica, commandos rappelling onto the deck of the vessel, and scuba forces underwater. Antiaircraft batteries were seen firing from a location that the report described as being near the port city of Bandar Abbas. Land-based trucks also launched missiles and troops used shoulder-fired missiles.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been on the rise since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy. In January, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq. Washington is also pressing for the extension of a yearslong UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October. A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane has also renewed tensions.