Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting a replica US aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported on Tuesday, an exercise aimed at threatening the US amid tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The exercises – dubbed “Prophet Muhammad 14th” – were held near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for a fifth of global oil output.
Footage of the war games broadcast on state television showed the Guard’s air and naval forces readying for an attack off the country’s southwestern coast.
Speedboats skimmed across the water in formation before ground forces fired cannons and a missile was launched from a helicopter, leaving a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship.
The Iranian maritime manoeuvre was staged at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
The US Navy condemned the “irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran”, calling it an attempt “to intimidate and coerce”.
The US Navy 5th Fleet, which is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, also criticised Iran’s use of the replica aircraft carrier.
“We are aware of the Iranian exercise involving attacking a mock-up of a vessel similar to a motionless aircraft carrier,” its spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement emailed to the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
“The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the US for months, there have been increasing signs of a confrontation as the US has argued for extend a years-long UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.
The war games came only days after Tehran accused US fighter jets of harassing an Iranian commercial airliner over Syria.
At least four passengers on board the Mahan Air plane were injured in Thursday’s incident after the pilot took emergency action to avoid the warplanes, Iranian authorities said.
Tensions have escalated between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The two countries have come to the brink of direct confrontation twice since June 2019, when the Guard shot down a US drone in the Gulf.
Their animosity deepened after Iran’s most prominent general, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January.
One of the most recent confrontations was in mid-April, when the US accused the Guard of using speedboats to harass its warships in the Gulf.