Ukraine says Russia's putting inflatable tanks on the battlefield - but the decoys deflated

Russia T-90M tank in Ukraine
Russia T-90M tank in Ukraine  
  • Ukraine accused Russia of staging inflatable tanks near Zaporizhzhia in a Thursday Facebook post.

  • But the Russian decoys unintentionally deflated, according to Ukrainian officials.

  • Russia has employed deceptive warfare for decades, but its recent efforts apparently fizzled.

Ukrainian military forces accused the Russian army of deploying inflatable tanks in the south of Ukraine in an effort to deceive the opposing side, saying the country's "rubber" decoys had deflated in an anticlimactic display.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in a Thursday Facebook post said Russia's army had run out of steam in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian troops have been incessantly firing on Ukrainian defenses in recent days, according to the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration.

"At the time when our partners are coordinating the supply of tanks to Ukraine, the invading army is also increasing the presence of 'tank units' in the Zaporizhzhia area," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote.

But Russia's multiplying tanks are, according to Ukrainian officials, not what they seem.

"Apparently, the free air of the Cossack region is not suitable for the 'rubber' products of the occupiers, so they deflate without fulfilling their main mission. Just like the inflated bravado of the Russian army," the agency said.


Inflatable tanks are a staple of Russia's deception doctrine known as maskirovka, or masking. The country's approach to psychological warfare relies on an arsenal of inflatable tanks and launchers, decoy vehicles and soldiers, and other operations of deceit to boost stealth tactics and sow confusion.

Russia has utilized elements of maskirovka in conflicts going back decades, but their most recent efforts in Ukraine apparently fizzled, Ukraine claims.

It was not clear for what purpose Russia allegedly staged the inflatable tanks near Zaporizhzhia.

Earlier in the war, Ukraine also produced false weaponry, using fake rocket launchers made of wood to entice Russia to waste missiles on useless targets. The wooden decoys were meant to look like US rocket launchers when spotted by Russian drones, prompting Russian cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea to fire on the false targets, according to August reports.

Deception as warfare has a long history. The US also utilized inflatable tanks in World War II as part of its Ghost Army operation in an effort to trick the Third Reich into overestimating the Allied forces' military strength. The unit created illusions and sought to spread disinformation by using inflatable mock-ups of military vehicles, tanks, and artillery, as well as audio recordings of sounds that mimicked the movement of large armies.


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