Featured image credit: Youtube.com/@AFP
The decoy weapon models are made of synthetic silk and are inflated with a petrol or electric blower, which means they can be quickly deployed. They are used to dupe the enemy into thinking that the real thing has been deployed in the field, leading them to waste manpower and ordnance on dealing with the perceived threat.
The company behind the decoys, named ‘Inflatech’, have been cagey about whether or not they’re selling their products to Ukraine, stating that they are unable to release information due to military secrecy obligations. However, they were prepared to concede that sales had increased a hundredfold in the past 12 months.
Poven Kumaresan, the marketing and sales director at Inflatech, told the press that his company sold to many governments around the world and was not restricted solely to European clients. Kumaresan added that the company’s 35 or so employees were, at present, producing between 30-40 decoys a month.
Inflatech includes in their ersatz arsenal armored vehicles, tanks, and – astonishingly – jet fighters. Each decoy weighs between 55-200 pounds and can require up to four people to properly deploy in the field.
Kumaresan went on to say that Inflatech is able to replicate an existing design within 72 hours – assuming it has access to the original schematics thereof. Inflatech can also improvise and work from photos and video of the weapon, but in this instance, it typically takes longer – around two weeks.
For instance, a replicated HIMARS rocket launcher had taken around 60 days to be delivered after the placement of the order.
Kumaresan stated that the company has thus far sent “dozens” of spurious HIMARS launchers to Ukraine, all while the actual HIMARS in the hands of the Ukrainians are laying waste to the Russian invaders.
The decoys produced by Inflatech may not be real, but governments make no such distinction – they’re still classed as military materiel and require government approval before they can be delivered.
A decoy weapon as true to the original weapon as possible
Inflatech CEO, Vojtech Fresser, said it was crucial that the decoys look as true to the original weapon as possible. He stated that during a combat situation, where most enemies would be perceiving the decoy from a distance of 150-200 meters, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish the decoys from the real things.
The decoys are not just trompe-l’oeils, however, they are able to fool infrared sensors due to the heat that they emanate, further duping the enemy into believing that they’re real.
The deceit doesn’t just represent a strategic cost to the enemy but an economic one too. A single decoy is usually one-quarter to one-twentieth the cost of the weapon that destroys it – a fact that makes the decoys a weapon that attacks the enemy’s coffers rather than their soldiers.
Inflatech did not begin as manufacturers of wartime decoys, but got their start making training inflatables. Their products were originally bespoke, where customers would order any kind of inflatables from training dummies to, simply, children’s inflatables. The transition into materiel production was an unexpected but lucrative one.
Fresser stated that, in an ideal world, his company would still be producing children’s toys, but that without a “safe world for them”, that simply wasn’t possible. He continued that he expected the company’s output to continue to grow dramatically and that he anticipated an explosion in the size of the company over the coming three years.
Decoy tanks and other weapons have long been a feature of modern warfare. However, decoy weapon models are being used by Russia as well as Ukraine, as the above video demonstrates.