Iran also says that Great Prophet 14 included air defense drills. More notably, the IRGC said that its Nour satellite, which it successfully launched in April using a previously unseen space launch vehicle called Qassed, had captured imagery of the exercise from space. This satellite, which has been described vaguely in the past as a “multi-purpose” system, is Iran’s first dedicated military space-based asset.
The Iranian government has yet to release any images from Nour to back up its claim or give a sense of how high the fidelity of the imagery actually is. Still, if true, having its own organic space-based intelligence gathering capability of any kind could be valuable for Iran, which has very limited other means of peering into denied areas in opponents’ territory, such as in Israel or Saudi Arabia.
So far, Iran appears to have refrained from actually blowing up the faux carrier as it did during Great Prophet IX. The detonation of a large explosive charge on the barge during that exercise in 2015 caused major damage to it, but provided a spectacular visual for propaganda purposes.
Still, just being able to train against a large mockup of any kind offers some degree of practical opportunities for Iran to evaluate its various tactics, techniques, and procedures. Limiting the actual damage to the barge will make it easier to refurbish it and use it in future drills, as well.
Though there are questions about the exact state of Iran’s maritime warfare capabilities, Great Prophet 14 has certainly showcased a number of them that do pose real threats to American and other foreign warships, including aircraft carriers, operating in the region. This comes as the USS Nimitz, the first in the class of carriers that the Iranian barge is modeled after, is presently heading toward the Middle East, where it will likely take up station, replacing its sister ship the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which has now left the area and is in the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran routinely objects to the presence of American warships in the Persian Gulf. The regime in Tehran also regularly threatens to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, through which between 20 and 30 percent of the world’s oil exports pass, in response to foreign sanctions, especially those the United States has placed on its oil and natural gas industries.
Of course, Iran could certainly use a major propaganda victory. In addition to being subject to crippling international sanctions, the country has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and recently suffering a string of mysterious explosions and fires. Foreign actors, primarily Israel, have been implicated in at least some of those incidents, which may also have deliberate acts of sabotage carried out with assistance from the United States. The regime in Tehran has also accused the U.S. military of conducting a dangerous intercept of a Mahan Air Airbus A310 airliner as it flew over Syria last week, which American authorities have strenuously denied.
There is certainly still time for the IRGC to cap off the Great Prophet 14 exercise with an even more dramatic display involving its fake American aircraft carrier.
Update: 2:00 PM EST—
U.S. personnel at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, both situated on the opposite side of the Persian Gulf from Iran, went on high alert in response to three Iranian missiles fired during Great Prophet 14 that appeared to be heading their way. These missiles, possibly ballistic missiles, fell into the water, but had come “close enough” to cause concern, according to Fox News.
Unspecified ” intel indicators” had detected the missiles, CNN reported. This could include information from a variety of U.S. assets in the region, such as the AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar that the U.S. Army operates in Qatar or any of a number of aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms that routinely operate over and around the Persian Gulf. A U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft was seen orbiting off the coast of the UAE earlier today. It and other ISR aircraft, manned and unmanned, have undoubtedly been observing the Great Prophet 14 exercise, in general.
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