Using Decoys: How Ukrainian Company Metinvest Manufactures Fake Arms to Trick Russia

2023-10-03 00:12:10

The Russian army destroyed the Ukrainian company Metinvest, which originally produced about half of the weapons for the Ukrainian army. Now the company’s managers hope that the Russian army will target more fake targets. (Photo source/Defense of Ukraine X)

“A soldier never tires of deceit” is a clever trick in Sun Tzu’s art of war. Ukraine has also imitated the wisdom of ancient soldiers and used recycled materials to make “fake weapons” to trick Russia into launching missiles, artillery shells or drones, consuming real armaments.

Ukrainian arms dealer Metinvest manufactures fake arms as bait

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 2 that advances in technology have made battlefield deception more difficult, but also more important than ever.

The Russian army destroyed the Ukrainian company Metinvest, which originally produced about half of the weapons for the Ukrainian army. Now the company’s managers hope that the Russian army will target more fake targets.

On a factory floor in central Ukraine, workers are busy making parts for howitzers, radar stations and mortars, but they are all fake. Metinvest mass-produced high-quality replicas to serve as decoys in an attempt to lure Russian firepower back.

These counterfeit arms are made of hard plastic foam, water pipes and discarded equipment. The production logic is that every time the Russian military uses a missile or artillery shell to attack Ukraine’s counterfeit products, one will be missing.

If the bait is placed on the front line, it will attract the attention of the Russian army.

“Whenever we place these decoys in certain areas of the front line, they will attract the enemy’s attention,” a worker revealed. Another employee showed reporters a decoy produced by Metinvest, a clandestine production site in central Ukraine that makes replicas of the weapons.

The platoon leader of the Ukrainian military said that his troops used decoys to pinpoint the firing positions of Russian artillery, allowing Ukrainian troops to target Russian troops.

Last year, an independent monitoring agency released a video showing a Russian Lancet drone attacking a Ukrainian radar system, which Kiev confirmed was a decoy made from abandoned vehicles.

Throughout history, deception has been an important tool in warfare, but the war in Ukraine presents new challenges. Advances in thermal imaging technology can reveal targets invisible to the naked eye or identify enemy soldiers as dummies or real people. Cheap drones provide the military with instant detection, complicating long-standing methods of assembling or inflating replicas.

Western allies use some replicas for training exercises

Combatants said that because all actions on the battlefield can be detected, it becomes more difficult and more critical to conduct deception.

“Compared to past conflicts, current battlefield deception is more related to disinformation,” said Vojtech Fresser, CEO of Czech inflatable decoy manufacturer Inflatech.

Fraser did not say whether Inflatech’s decoys were deployed on the battlefield in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Western allies are using some of these replicas for training exercises, he said.

On the battlefield, decoys can help prevent enemy attacks by misleading them about their attack plans or by making them think that an area’s defenses are stronger than they actually are.

Use lightweight materials to replicate bulky machinery

It is unclear how widely decoys are used in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian military declined to comment on the issue, citing operational security. Russia admits that some of the weapons destroyed on the battlefield may be replicas and that these weapons exceed the number of Ukrainian arsenals.

Russia has also deployed decoys, and their effectiveness is uncertain.

Oleksandr Myronenko, chief operating officer of Metinvest, said that after the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian military approached Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, hoping to create a decoy. It follows a series of steps the company has taken to support the war in Kiev, including making shelters and body armor for Ukrainian troops and procuring drones on their behalf.

At the workshop, staff got to work, printing images of weapons from the Internet and analyzing how to use lightweight materials to replicate bulky machinery. To standardize production, they create plywood templates and carve the components out of foam blocks. Using lightweight components, transportable dummy parts can be produced that troops can quickly assemble directly on the battlefield.

To the untrained eye, a complete howitzer decoy looks exactly like the one deployed on the front lines in Ukraine against Russian forces. To the touch, it feels a bit spongy.

Czech Inflatech’s inflatable military equipment is made from synthetic silk

It takes Metinvest workers four days to replicate a Ukrainian D-20 howitzer and two weeks to replicate an American M777 howitzer. The most labor-intensive decoy is the 35D6 radar unit, which takes a month to assemble due to its size and many parts.

As for the Czech Inflatech’s inflatable armament, which is made of synthetic silk, it can imitate the Patriot air defense system, Himars mobile rocket launcher, Leopard 2 tank and the Soviet-designed SA-8 surface-to-air missile system.

Inflatech’s inflatable “Leopard tank” can be folded into a backpack for easy portability. It only takes 10 minutes to inflate using a generator. “You can assemble four fake tanks sitting in an RV.” Reiser said.

(original link)

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