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NewsInflatable tanks and wooden HIMARS: Fake, but work exceptionally well

Inflatable tanks and wooden HIMARS: Fake, but work exceptionally well

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The Ukrainian Armed Forces are using inflatable and wooden decoys to confuse the Russians and reduce the lethal threat posed by the Russian combat drones and other weapons in the Russian army’s arsenal.

Example of an inflatable tank. Image credit: Inflatech

Warfare based on deception is known since the first ancient wars. And even when technology has advanced to the current level, different methods to conceal the real military forces are still being used.

Drones, ranged weapons and other technological advances have significantly changed the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine. But dummies are a very effective method to fight these new threats, writes The Economist.

Inflatable tanks

The Russian military constantly reports having destroyed innumerable units of M142 HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems. Kiev, for its part, claims that not a single HIMARS has been lost since the United States began supplying them last July. What is the reason for such a mismatch of combat statistics?

The reason why this happens may look way too simple, and even a bit amusing.

Ukraine has a fleet of wooden replicas of HIMARS, which are mounted on heavy trucks. But its military forces have an even longer experience in using decoys. Since 2018, Ukraine has started using inflatable models of heavy armored vehicles and weapon platforms, explained Andrijus Rymaruks, a representative of the “Return Alive” foundation.

Inflatable Decoys of HIMARS and some kind of Main Battle Tank possibly an M1A1 Abrams produced by the Czech Company Inflatech have been Photographed, however their CEO has refused to say if his Decoys are going to Ukraine but that Sale are indeed up almost 30% since last year. pic.twitter.com/W3gc2CY7ln

— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) March 7, 2023

Wooden “equipment” is heavy and consists of several parts. To transport it, a cargo vehicle is needed. Furthermore, an engineering team has to assemble and dismantle them, as needed. Meanwile, the inflatable structure is made of nylon fabric, is cheaper to produce, light enough to carry in a backpack.

According to an engineer from the Czech company Inflatech, which produces mock-ups of armored cars, these systems are installed very quickly: you only need to turn on the pump and in ten minutes a “brand-new copy” of HIMARS is ready.

Tanks, artillery, mortars, machine guns – you name it. It is possible to make nylon, rubber, or wooden analog for almost any type of military equipment.

The Russian Federation also has factories for the production of inflatable structures, including fighter jets and missile systems. From a distance – like, for example, when observing the territory from a high-altitude drone or satellite imagery – the airbase with these dummies will seem overcrowded with combat aircraft.

Difficulties arise when replicating some specific parts of armored vehicles, such as the antennas of radar systems. According to an engineer at Inflatech, the tanks’ cannons are too long, so aluminum tubes are used instead of inflatable parts. Inflatech’s orders have increased by 30 percent since the start of the war in Ukraine.

In turn, decoy layouts and the overall production technology were also improved. Now, a fake tank – inflatable or wooden – is practically indistinguishable from a real one from a distance of five meters. Which, in fact, seems difficult to believe, but these are the words of military officers.

In order to confuse the thermal imagers of drones, the inflatable mock-ups are equipped with reflectors and false thermal signature generators, which imitate the signal obtained after a projectile hits a real tank.

Currently, such decoys are mainly used to reduce the threat posed by the Russian Lancet drones, which are considered the most dangerous aircraft of their kind. The operating range of Lancet drones is 40 km, and they can carry up to 3 kg of explosives.

But not only drones can be fooled by these measures. Enemy artillery also wastes tons of ammo to hit fake structures.

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