Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday launched missiles targeting a mock aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, The Associated Press reported.
The drill included such a barrage of fire that the US military temporarily put two regional bases in the Mideast on alert amid tensions between the two countries.
The drill — and the American response to it — underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the US after a series of escalating incidents last year led to an American drone strike which killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq.
Iran retaliated for the killing of Soleimani by launching a barrage of missiles on two Iraqi military bases hosting American troops. 34 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as a result of the attack.
There have also been tensions around the UN Security Council’s arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently vowed to use all means available to extend the UN arms embargo.
The United States has put forward a resolution to extend the embargo but faces opposition from veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to win contracts with Tehran.
Iran’s UN ambassador warned recently that he believes the US resolution to extend the arms embargo will be defeated and warned it would be “a very, very big mistake” if the Trump administration then tries to re-impose UN sanctions.
Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired Tuesday from the exercise called “Great Prophet 14." Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas.
State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, planned to fire “long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill that will continue Wednesday.
Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the U.S. military's Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.
Other footage from the exercise aired by state television showed fast boats encircling the mock-up, kicking up white waves in their wake. While Iran's naval forces are dwarfed by the US Navy, its commanders practice so-called “swarm” tactics aimed at overwhelming the US carriers that pass through the strait on their way in and out of the Persian Gulf.
Iran regularly holds drills at the Strait of Hormuz, which is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes.
The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.
In the last few years there have been several close encounters between Iranian and American vessels in the area.