Iranian media are now reporting that the reason for constructing the replica is for shooting a movie about the U.S. downing of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Iranian media which reported on Sunday that the ship was "part of the decor and stage settings" for a movie by Iranian director Nader Talebzadeh.
Its subject is the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the U.S. Navy-guided missile cruiser the USS Vincennes. All 290 passengers and crew onboard were killed. The U.S. government said the naval crew incorrectly identified the passenger plane as an F-14 fighter.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord/Released)
"The issue has turned into a good excuse for another wave of hype against Iran," the Iranian Alef news website said according to Fars. "Without any proof or real basis, the Western media have jumped again to paint a negative picture of Iran."
Officials last week told the New York Times that they believed the vessel to be non-functioning and had suspected that Iran might be planning to blow it up for propaganda purposes.
According to the Times, intelligence analysts had discovered the vessel construction last summer while studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations.
The images appeared to show a ship resembling one of the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, including planes on deck, rising from the Gachin shipyard near the port of Bandar Abbas.
A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain told Reuters 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 told Reuters.
"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?" he added.