Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The NYT reports that US intelligence analysts studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations say that Iran is building a mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with the same distinctive shape and style of the Navy's Nimitz-class carriers, as well as the Nimitz's number 68 neatly painted in white near the bow. Mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck. The mock-up, which American officials described as more like a barge than a warship, has no nuclear propulsion system and is only about two-thirds the length of a typical 1,100-foot-long Navy carrier. Intelligence officials do not believe that Iran is capable of building an actual aircraft carrier. "Based on our observations, this is not a functioning aircraft carrier; it's a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier," says Cmdr. Jason Salata. "We're not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this. If it is a big propaganda piece, to what end?" Navy intelligence analysts surmise that the vessel, which Fifth Fleet wags have nicknamed the Target Barge, is something that Iran could tow to sea, anchor and blow up — while filming the whole thing to make a propaganda point, if, say, the talks with the Western powers over Iran's nuclear program go south. "It is not surprising that Iranian military forces might use a variety of tactics — including military deception tactics — to strategically communicate and possibly demonstrate their resolve in the region," said an American official who has closely followed the construction of the mock-up. The story has set off chatter about how weird and dumb Iran is for building this giant toy boat but according to Marcy Wheeler if you compare Iran's barge with America's troubled F-35 program you end up with an even bigger propaganda prop. "I'm not all that sure what distinguishes the F-35 except the cost: Surely Iran hasn't spent the equivalent of a trillion dollars — which is what we'll spend on the F-35 when it's all said and done — to build its fake boat," writes Wheeler. "So which country is crazier: Iran, for building a fake boat, or the US for funding a never-ending jet program?""