Iran’s fake aircraft carrier features fake F/A-18 Hornet in Jolly Rogers livery

Recent satellite imagery showed Tehran is building a fake U.S. aircraft. New photographs prove that Iran’s Nimitz class mock flattop hosts several (fake) planes, including some CAG birds and a Jolly Rogers F/A-18 Hornet.

Iran is not only working on a mock American aircraft carrier. New images posted on Facebook show that the USS Nimitz class ship being assembled in an Iranian shipyard on the Persian Gulf most probably for propaganda purposes (do you remember the F-313 Qaher stealth jet?) or as a movie prop, now features also some embarked planes.

Noteworthy, along with some F-5 Tiger aircraft (serving with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force but not existing in a carrier-variant) parked on the flight deck of the fake Iranian carrier there are also some fake F/A-18 Hornets.

One of the two in special color scheme sports the unique livery and markings of the legendary VFA-103 “Jolly Rogers”.

The Jolly Rogers are one of the most famous squadron in U.S. Navy. They currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet adorned with Ensign Jack Ernie’s skull-and-crossbones on all-black tails, their symbol and probably the most recognizable one in Naval Aviation (to such an extent you can find it in Disney’s “Planes” cartoon).

The reason for using CAG (Carrier Air Group) planes in special colors makes Iran’s mysterious aircraft carrier’s flight deck slightly more realistic but the question remains: why did Tehran spend so much money to build such a huge model?

As mentioned before, it might be a prop for an upcoming movie (about an Iranian airliner shot down by a U.S. cruiser in 1988) as reported by some media outlets; still, considering the effort in building the mock up it is also possible that the ship will serve for more military purposes: for instance testing new technologies and/or training warplanes to attack a U.S. flattop in the Persian Gulf exploiting its vulnerabilities.

In either cases, just a waste of money…

H/T Guido Olimpio for the heads-up. Image credit: IRIAF Facebook page

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. You seem to assume that everyone cares about the false dichotomy of Dems and Reps. Why? While people like you are kept distracted with that petty, stupid game, the big, two parties follow the same agenda of big business and war. Time to break out of this false dichotomy.

  2. Yet for some reason, Iran had no problem with supporting a dictator who used chemical weapons to kill innocent civilians, in Syria. Remember Assad in 2014? Nice try. No one has to feel sorry for Iran now that they are doing the exact same thing in Syria, at least America is reducing chemical weapons this time.

    • It is striking how those promoting American war policies only show any concern about use of chemical weapons and support of dictators, when there is an opportunity to attack countries that America is hostile to.

      Strangely, such people have nothing to say when the same is done by America and the states it supports.

      • That is how the world works. America supports factions it likes just like Iran supports factions it likes, no matter who gets chemical weapon-ed. America has done a good job keeping it’s allies clean of WMDs while Russia allows Assad to use them on his own people until they were forced to remove them from Syria or be embarrassed by the US for chemical weapons usage. The only reason this is not happening in America is because the country is too stable to easily influence.

  3. Or about as advanced as your knowledge can get. Iran already announced that this was built for a film.

  4. It was always clear, you just seem surprised that America is the only one that does this.

    • No, I am surprised that anyone seriously tries to convince others that America genuinely cares about the existence of dictators and use of chemical weapons. Clearly, it does not care and is only interested in exploiting those things.

      • We care to a cert-en extent, America currently sanctions dictatorship run countries that have horrible human rights abuses that are not significant in politics. America cares about human rights, but the government is not going to let that stop countering influence from other countries that hate America.

  5. Simply repeating the nuclear weapons allegations does not make them true. Evidence would and so far, it does not exist.

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