Iranian drone image of the USS Nimitz as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. Credit: Tasnim News.

US Navy officials played down surveillance drone images released by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard force that showed the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group as it transited the Strait of Hormuz.

Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for US Naval Forces Central Command, would not comment on the images posted by Iranian media and tweeted by the INTELSky military aircraft tracking site, but said the carrier Nimitz and its strike group transited the strait and arrived on station Sept. 18, the Navy Times reported.

“There have been no unsafe or unprofessional interactions with the Iranians since April 15,” said Rebarich. That was the day 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboats swarmed US naval vessels in the North Arabian Gulf.

That incident prompted a stern warning from President Donald Trump, who tweeted “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

According to The Guardian, the semi-official Tasnim news agency, which is considered close to the paramilitary Guard, published images of the Nimitz, saying they were taken by Iranian-made drones, and showing fighter planes parked on the carrier’s deck.

The Nimitz, and several other warships, passed last Friday through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important chokepoint for oil shipments, the US Navy had said, in what was described as a “scheduled maneuver.”

The US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which oversees patrols across Mideast waters, declined to comment on the Iranian report.

Earlier in the day, the Guard took over a delivery of surveillance drones from Iran’s defense industries, the report said.

At a ceremony marking the event, Gen Hossein Salami said the power of the Guard’s navy stems from its combination use of drones, helicopters, aircraft and its vessels.

Over the past decade, the Guard has occasionally published images on the US vessels in the Persian Gulf, where the force has been in charge of protecting Iran’s interests since 2007, the report said.

In 2019, similar images were published, reportedly from a Guard drone that flew over the USS Dwight D Eisenhower and another American warship in the Persian Gulf.

Tensions between Iran and the US continue to simmer. The US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers and imposed new, tougher sanctions on Iran that sent the country’s economy into free fall, the report said.

“We are in war, we are in an economic war,” said Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, citing the US sanctions as the cause of the economic warfare.

The incident is likely to fire up the great debate over whether aircraft carriers are obsolete in modern warfare. Addressing the proverbial elephant in the room in this case, if a carrier can be secretly spotted and tracked by a drone, it can be attacked by a drone.

So how about twenty drones? Can the carrier group handle that? We’ll let the tall foreheads at the Pentagon ponder that one.