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The Military Idle

Russian Army Upgrades Its Inflatable Weapons 197

jamax writes "According to the BBC: 'The Russian military has come up with an inventive way to deceive the enemy and save money at the same time: inflatable weapons. They look just like real ones: they are easy to transport and quick to deploy. You name it, the Russian army is blowing it up: from pretend tanks to entire radar stations.' But the interesting thing is these decoys are not dumb - actually they appear to be highly advanced for what I thought was a WWII-grade aerial photography countermeasures. Apparently they have heat signatures comparable with the military tech they represent, as well as the same radar signature."


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Russian Army Upgrades Its Inflatable Weapons

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  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the_one_wesp ( 1785252 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:21AM (#33859556)
    This is kinda like when I used to create decals of myself and spray them all around the Counter Strike maps.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want something like this I can send in my stead to my mother-in law's for Thanksgiving.

  • Better still (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:26AM (#33859618)

    Inflate them with poison gas. Then, it really is a weapon. Without, isnt really just an inflatable replica and not a weapon?

    • Hmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arcite ( 661011 )
      So one bullet to one of these 'death balloons' and all those scary Russians would die from their own Super EVIL WEAPON. Sounds brilliant!
    • Re:Better still (Score:5, Insightful)

      by qoncept ( 599709 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:43AM (#33859794) Homepage
      Yeah, except they, you know, agreed not to.
    • Re:Better still (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@jws[ ] ['myt' in gap]> on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:51AM (#33859868) Homepage Journal

      The proper word is "decoy".

          It's a very valid strategy too. If there are 2 or 3 real targets, they may be easy to neutralize. What if those targets became 3000? You'll have an awful lot of your resources spread out to blow up non-targets. After a while, morale can stop dropping when the troops are sent out on yet another mission to blow up a balloon. And that can be dangerous. Thinking that they're "neutralizing" another balloon, and running into a real armed battalion would be a disaster.

          The same applies to all kinds of other scenarios.

          Decoys are useful for lots more than just defensive purposes. If intelligence says an area is occupied, and you're trying to pull a group out quietly, they may be diverted around such decoys, and right into a bigger trap.

          But, if the decoys can be identified, that may not prove anything. 2000 decoy units and 3 real units, you could assume that the real units are protecting the places of value, right? Not necessarily. They only need to be close enough to react. So you have a real unit in front of Bunker A, and decoys in front of Bunkers B and C, you wouldn't necessarily want to attach Bunker A.

      • by arivanov ( 12034 )

        Both USA and USSR used to have unmarked or falsely marked trains with Minuteman (USA) and Topol (Russia). That is a target hidden amidts the mother of all decoys - the entire country's train network.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

          Except Minuteman were never railroad deployed.

          They were always road delivered to silos.

          And since railhubs were always 2nd and 3rd tier targets right after C3, nuclear bases and air fields, having them hidden in the rolling stock of the US wasn't that much of a decoy.

          Russia on the other hand was better suited to hiding things out in the boondocks on rail sidings.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

          That's only one up to the better hiding spots, the highways.

          There was an article not long ago about the DoD was transporting something secret. They opted to use plain white trailers on regular tractor trailer rigs. They'd load one up, and send a dozen or so trucks out at the same time from what was already a busy location.

          The problem with doing something like SAMs (or worse, the Minuteman's) would be that they would be a huge problem if there were an accident.

          • by Splab ( 574204 )

            The rules of engagement only applies to the losing side.

          • Re:Better still (Score:5, Interesting)

            by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @02:49PM (#33861768) Journal

            Your statement is generally true with an exception. I used to drive truck and got one of these loads (probably a decoy load). I wnet through a scale house and got poped for a random inspection and they wanted to open the cargo doors. I called the 800 number to declare the seal was being broken and before I got off the phone about 4 black SUVs entered the parking lot and stopped the inspection. Of course they claimed they were looking from something in another truck and required all the resorces of the DOT officers, but I suspected it was something different as the weight on the Bill of lading didn't seem to match the weight that was in the trailer.

            As for the rules of war, Well they only apply once you are in an actual war. We wouldn't technically be in a war until invaded or congress declared war and the battlefield came to the homeland. Once war broke out in the area, then the rules of war would apply.

            It's one of those depends on what the meaning of "is" is things.

            • about 4 black SUVs entered the parking lot and stopped the inspection. Of course they claimed they were looking from something in another truck and required all the resorces of the DOT officers, but I suspected it was something different as the weight on the Bill of lading didn't seem to match the weight that was in the trailer.

              I'm sure it was purely a coincidence. I see packs of SUV's with gov't suits in them all the time. Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here. Move along, citizens. :)

              • Re:Better still (Score:4, Informative)

                by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:17PM (#33863256) Journal

                A few things to note about the class 7 Radio Active placards. If you are in a large city, often the law requires the truck to take a bypass route unless they are delivering inside the city, then you must take the most direct route to the destination. This is true for all Placarded Trucks and in most cases, even non-placarded Hazmat loads. (yes, there are some loads (or there were 10-15 years ago) that contain hazardous materials but not in a quantity to require being placarded but you had to otherwise follow the hazardous material routes.

                The other thing is that certain types of X-ray films will require a 7.1 radioactive placard. I'm pretty sure they got rid of subclass placards for radioactive so it would just be a "7 radio active" placard now. I also had an old bomber sight from an some WWII bomber that was actually radioactive. I found it in a garage where I moved to and found out it was radioactive when attempting to see what it might be worth. I was able to FedEX it to a museum that handled it from there. Strangely, it was going to cost around $2500 to dispose of it, I couldn't legally sell it, and the museum took it for free but I had to pay an additional $10 to ship it to them.

                Anyways, I figured I would mention that so you would know that simply staying off the outer belts of most large cities would be enough to avoid the class 7 placarded trucks and even if you get close to one, it's quite possible- actually more likely, that it is because of any number of relatively harmless materials in comparison. But yea, I agree, I wouldn't be following one either just because of what it might actually be.

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              How do you know it wasn't organised crime instead of spooks working on behalf of the military?
              On second thought it does sound like the stupid sort of James Bond games spooks would play when somebody mistakenly gives them a military task to do. I wonder how many they lost?
      • This was one of the reason that the Soviets and Americans signed the ABM Treaty. Both sides realized that the cost of building launchable decoy ballistic missiles or filling your MIRV with a combination of real and fake warheads was way cheaper than the cost of building anti-ballistic missiles.
      • Apparently the Serbians and Republika Serbska (Bosnia) used decoys a great deal when they were under air attack from NATO. From the Serbians I talk to (over TeamSpeak when playing LockOn Flaming Cliffs 2 - greatest combat flight sim out there, and the DCS series is awesome) it seems to be a matter of great pride that they duped NATO and much of their real equipment surived while the decoys got the complete hammering.
    • They are already inflated with deadly corbomite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Inflate them with poison gas. Then, it really is a weapon. Without, isnt really just an inflatable replica and not a weapon?

      And why would it need to be a weapon when its purpose is to make it hard for the enemy to know real information about your asset's numbers and positions?
      Put down the comic books and pick up the Art of War.

    • And they worked so hard on it too.

    • I don't know. It seems that in the US, the legal definition of a weapon is something intended to believed to be a weapon. That is, if you take a plastic toy gun to rob a bank, you get the same (or similar) weapons charges that you would have gotten had you just used the real thing.

      Similarly, non-functioning replica weapons are not allowed on airplanes (per the TSA).

      • I am pretty sure that the military operates on a different set of rules than civilians do. That is why they have their own courts, lawyers, prisons, etc.
    • Without, isnt really just an inflatable replica and not a weapon?

      Tricking an enemy into diluting his forces to cover an imaginary threat can be more militarily useful than actually having all those tanks. If the enemy diverts an armored division a couple of hundred miles off course to face an inflatable 'threat', those tanks are out of the real battle just as surely as if they had been destroyed -- and Team Inflatable didn't have to risk any real hardware or soldiers to do it.

      Is a tailored computer virus a 'weapon'?

      How about a field guide to industrial sabotage?


  • by fridaynightsmoke ( 1589903 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:27AM (#33859636) Homepage
    In Soviet Russia, tank.. erm .. you blow up .. er... never mind.
  • beware (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:29AM (#33859666) Homepage

    Spies beware: the facilities which house the inflatable weapons will be guarded around-the-clock by vicious balloon dogs.

  • "Quaker guns" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tibbetts ( 7769 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:30AM (#33859678) Homepage Journal
    The Confederates did something like this in the early days of the US Civil War--they painted logs to look like cannons, and they often succeeded in fooling Union surveillance. Why "Quaker" guns? Because the Quakers were (and are) avowed pacifists (except for the one who was elected President of the US). []
    • Re:"Quaker guns" (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:57AM (#33859940)
      Inflatable and cardboard tanks were used along with fake radio broadcasts and intentional disinformation by double agents to help trick the Germans to believing that the Allies, led by Patton, were going to invade France via Calais(where the Channel is most narrow) instead of at Normandy. This actually caused the Germans to locate a significant number of men and tanks in the Calais region. I believe some units were actually pulled from Normandy to bolster the defenses at Calais.
      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        IIRC, despite urging of Rommel, many of those units in Calais region were also being held back while the invasion was in progress. Too many top figures of the Reich set their minds on the invasion happening in Calais; and indeed thought for some time that Normandy is the decoy.

    • The Serbian military did it more recently. The success rate differs depending on who reports it (reference []):

      * DoD estimated 120 Serb tanks, 220 APCs destroyed; Clark stated that reports about NATO warplanes striking decoys and failing to destroy tanks and personnel carriers was a concerted disinformation campaign
      * Reporters on the ground estimated 13 Serb tanks and < 100 armored personnel carriers destroyed, but noted the ruins of many different types of decoys hit by NATO forces (e.g., rusted tanks with

    • The Confederates did something like this in the early days of the US Civil War--they painted logs to look like cannons, and they often succeeded in fooling Union surveillance. Why "Quaker" guns? Because the Quakers were (and are) avowed pacifists (except for the one who was elected President of the US).

      The first emperor of china had a whole damn army of realistic clay figures [] (each with different facial features and painted to look alive). Put a couple units of real people alternating between atanding at attention and moving around in the mix, and any invader looking over the wall would shit his pants at the sight of the vast number of armed soldiers ready to fight.

    • Because the Quakers were (and are) avowed pacifists

      Well, except for the famous fighting Quakers of Philadephia, who have fought in all of the USA's wars, including the revolution.

      And of course, General Smedley Butler, the most decorated marine evar.

      And Nixon, as you mentioned.

  • In other words: They've improved the realism of decoy tech that has been in use for decades.

  • But the interesting thing is these decoys are not dumb

    Correction: They are dumb.

  • Decoys have been used through martial history. Inflatable decoys (with heaters to fake infrared signatures) have been around for a long time as well. Fooling radar is more difficult.

  • I wonder if this was part of the inspiration for Ruse []? Or maybe vice versa?

  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:49AM (#33859852) Journal
    Run out of ammo, paint logs black, prop them on a wall pointed at the enemy, retreat, profit!
  • No Tracks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:52AM (#33859882)
    Tanks, S-300s, and other large military equipment tend to leave tire and, well, track tracks. Especially when in large numbers, these tracks can easily be identified through daylight reconnaissance photos. If a whole company or division of tanks pops up out of nowhere, with no evidence of them being moved to that position, it's going to raise some big flags. Hawkeyes and other aerial radar systems can easily track ground vehicles. They will have no record of these formations being moved into position.

    I see this more like something China, North Korea, or Iran would use to inflate(no pun intended for once) force estimations. Park them alongside a couple real tanks or launchers, and all of a sudden a tank company turns into a battalion.

    • Already thought of (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @12:01PM (#33859996) Journal

      Gosh, the Russian army better give up. Some slashdot geek has thought of the ultimate hole in their camouflage. Tracks! Who would have thought!

      Except that they already knows this, and use weedwhackers and torches to create the various effects of a tank on the landscape. Very clever those military people. Almost like they know what they are doing.

      That is why they also forbid the local kids from using them as bouncy castles. Would ruin the effect.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @12:04PM (#33860030)
        Look at the other part of my post. The radar signatures of the vehicles making the tracks won't be the same as the number of tanks they are trying to simulate. Aerial radar platforms keep records of what they track and can easily tell that the tracks have been fabricated.
        • You're right. It's totally inconceivable that the human operators of that equipment would slip up. An error in communication could never happen when reporting to superiors. Especially not when they've gotten very little sleep in combat conditions.

          Humans are the weak link, and our weaknesses will be exploited by the enemy. People have made bigger mistakes than this

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cptdondo ( 59460 )

          But... A lot psy-ops goes into these decoys. They're meant to confuse, delay, etc.

          OK, you know that 10 planes on the airstrip are real, and 30 are fake. But the pilot who's trying to take them out will have flak, AAA, all sorts of things getting thrown at him. The decoys will be positioned to look like the more promising targets of opportunity. With the same infrared and radar signature, it's hard to pick out the ones you want.

          Better yet, move 10 real units into place. Camouflage them. Now blow up 10

        • You can make multiple instances of the real thing with only one real tank. Just drive it back and fourth awhile.

        • by IICV ( 652597 )

          Wait, so let me get this straight - you're positing a war wherein some aerial reconaissance platform has a mostly uninterrupted, continual radar view of all enemy troop movements? And it doesn't get the shit blown out of it why, exactly?

          You're basically assuming that one side would have complete air superiority, which is simply not going to happen unless you're talking about something like the Iraq "war", wherein one super power goes in and completely thrashes a country with technology that's several genera

      • Do not worry, I have for sale inflatable satellite to see inflatable battalions!

        Theen we keel Moose, keel Squirrel!

  • Blonds with huge missile silos, known to be the favorites of Slashdotters, who blog at them incessantly.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Blonds with huge missile silos

      I'd prefer mine with a smaller, tighter missile silo. But I suppose most /.ers take what they can get.

      BTW, I'd also prefer them to brunette and Asian.

  • Not new (Score:5, Informative)

    by KDN ( 3283 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:56AM (#33859924)

    This is not new. Back when I was in ROTC (the 1980's), I recall an article where photorecon people found out that they were duped. They assumed that a set of nuclear subs were berthed for a long period of time for repairs. A storm came through and bent one of the "submarines". So the presumption was that the Soviets knew when our sats went overhead and between the times they set sail on one sub and inflated another in its place. So the Soviets had a sub patroling somewhere unknown because we thought it was in for repairs.

    • This is not new.
      Back when I was in ROTC (the 1980's), I recall an article

      There was an article in the Time in the 90s about Saddam's inflatable arsenal and how the U.S. was wasting expensive missiles shooting at inexpensive bouncy houses.

      • by KDN ( 3283 )

        Hm, I can see a new weapon under development. A submunition weapon that will unleash hundreds of steel darts and blanket the area. Everything still intact after an hour gets a visit from a JDAM.

        • actually the JDAM is not the problem its the HE round that the JDAM is attached to (or the Fuel Air round)

          quoth the Wiki
          "The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs, or "dumb bombs" into all-weather "smart" munitions."

  • by British ( 51765 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:56AM (#33859930) Homepage Journal

    Better yet, inflate them with explosive gases. Something shoots at them, they blow 'up real good.

    Probably the response to that would be to drop flachettes everywhere. Anything that doesn't pop when is real.

    • Chances are that an inflatable tank or radar station is only going to get hit by an air strike or artillery fire.

      Filling them with explosive gasses will only cost more and make the impact of the attack more devastating to the earth that the inflatable sits on. Although, if there are any personnel nearby the inflatable, they might become even more dead.

  • New???? (Score:4, Informative)

    by grandpa-geek ( 981017 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:58AM (#33859944)

    In World War II there was an entire army of inflatable weapons in England right across from Calais, France. Its purpose was to convince the Germans that the invasion would come at that point. It really came at Normandy.

    During the invasion they even dropped chaff over the Channel near the fake army to make the Germans think the invasion was happening there. Both sides had radar, but the secret was that the Allies had microwave radar and not just VHF radar. The chaff looked like an invasion fleet to the radar.

    As part of the ruse, they had General Patton running around inspecting the "troops" and getting them ready for the invasion.

    • The chaff looked like an invasion fleet to the radar.

      The chaff looked like "they're using that chaff to block our radar again", which means there's something they want to hide. It doesn't look like a fleet, it looks like an attempt at covering up a fleet.

  • huge market (Score:4, Funny)

    by greywire ( 78262 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:58AM (#33859948) Homepage

    I bet there'd be a huge market for these! What boy wouldn't want an inflatable rocket launcher? I know I do!

    • I bet there'd be a huge market for these! What boy wouldn't want an inflatable rocket launcher? I know I do!

      Not to be saying this. Is plan for new Russian export industry. (Don't tell the Iranians).

    • I want the inflatable aircraft carrier!
  • I can think of situations when something realistic down to heat signature would come handy.

    • by Geeky ( 90998 )

      I can think of situations when something realistic down to heat signature would come handy.

      And until then you can just come in hand.

      (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

  • Inflatable ... Weapons.

  • Aha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by gklinger ( 571901 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @12:16PM (#33860176)
    I thought the current estimates of Russian military spending were inflated.
  • isn't a balloon with a heat source called a hot air balloon?

    do fake russian balloon tanks still fool the enemy when they float idyllically by at 1000 feet?

  • What? (Score:3, Funny)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @01:03PM (#33860616) Journal

    No post about the "ballooning" military budget?

  • This reminds of a cartoon I think I saw in Air Force magazine years ago.

    As I recall, one panel shows some grunt putting the finishing touches on a wooden aircraft decoy.

    Next panel shows people scrambling out of the way of an incoming enemy aircraft.

    Last panel shows the result of the attack - with a wooden decoy bomb sitting in the remains of the decoy aircraft.

    So, obviously that all we need is some good, inflatable bombs.

  • sounds pretty expensive for a big balloon. I kinda expect less than 1/1000 cost.

  • Making sophisticated decoys (down to the radar signature) must be kind of expensive in terms of material and production... is it really that much more economical than the real thing?

    • Every military vehicle has two potential price tags associated with it :
      Mind bendingly expensive overpriced showpieces with no real value (during peace time or when it's doing mundane things.)
      A once in a lifetime bargain (when it makes the difference between winning or losing a battle, or even bigger : turns the tide to win the war.)

      If a decoy takes a bullet and a real tank survives, that real tank still has the potential of falling into the second category. If the production cost on the decoys is 1% the c

  • I like the story from WWII before D-Day. The Allies had wooden and canvas tanks setup to confuse the German reconnaissance flights. The Germans showed that they'd seen through it by dropping a bomb in the center of the formation. There was no explosion. Curious soldiers investigated and saw that it was made out of wood, too!

  • Old news, really. You can even buy your own Inflatable Army on the interweb: []

  • Aren't military vehicles generally measured in tens of millions of dollars each? If so, 100x cheaper still sounds like a six-digit number...
  • I'm not sure why the BBC is calling this "new", or where the "upgrades" are.
    The closest thing I could come up with is something to add a heat signature so they appear more realistic on thermal imagery--but again, that's not new at all. Way back in WWII, the Russians would just take an inflatable tank and just stick a little coal stove in it to give off heat. :\

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"