Dozens of Iranian speedboats swarmed a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier in a strategic Gulf waterway Wednesday, blasting it with missiles in large-scale naval and air defense drills meant to send a "message of (Iran's) might" to "extraterritorial powers," a military commander said.
The Iran's Revolutionary Guard drill, named Great Prophet 9, was held near the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world's oil passes. Iran's regular army carried out naval drills near the strait in December.
State TV showed footage of missiles fired from the coast and the fast boats striking the mock U.S. aircraft carrier. The drills, which also included shooting down a drone and planting undersea mines, were the first to involve a replica of a U.S. carrier.
At one point, a camera from state TV showed a banner which read "if the Americans are ready to be buried at the bottom of the waters of the Persian Gulf -- so be it," according to Reuters. The quote was from Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
"American aircraft carriers are very big ammunition depots housing a lot of missiles, rockets, torpedoes and everything else," the Guard's navy chief, Adm. Ali Fadavi, said on state TV, adding that a direct hit by a missile could set off a large secondary explosion. Last month Fadavi said his force is capable of sinking American aircraft carriers in the event of war.
The Guard's chief commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the drills send a "message of (Iran's) might" to "extraterritorial powers," a reference to the United States.
Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, the spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said the Iranian naval exercises began a few days ago and have had no effect on maritime traffic.
Stephens said the Americans were monitoring the drills, but downplayed the simulated attack on the carrier, saying the U.S. military was "not concerned about this exercise."
"We're quite confident of our naval forces' ability to defend themselves," he said. "It seems they've attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set."
A ceremony marking the exercise was attended by commanders of the Guards – a military force led by anti-Western hawks – and parliament speaker Ali Larijani, Reuters reports.
"With attention to the situation in the region, we have noticeably expanded the defense budget of the armed forces to ensure the stable security of the region," Larijani told a news conference, according to Fars News.
Iran is currently negotiating an agreement over its disputed nuclear program with the United States and five other world powers. The two sides hope to reach a framework agreement next month and a final deal in June.
Western nations have long suspected Iran is covertly seeking a nuclear weapons capability, charges denied by Tehran.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.