Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The old is new again

I was very interested to read of inflatable dummy aircraft and tanks produced by a Russian company.

These inflatables are made by the Russian manufacturer Rusbal.

The company was approached by the Russian defence ministry to supply full-scale decoys to protect the true capabilities of their strategic installations from being seen by surveillance satellites.

Weighing around 220lb (100kg), the decoys can easily be transported and installed by small teams of soldiers in minutes.

They imitate the heat signature of combat units, fooling enemy infra-red detectors.

And they even stay intact after suffering minor damage from bullets or explosions.

Demand from other nations has been so strong that Rusbal is now offering imitations of Western military equipment as well as Russian.

There's more at the link, including more and larger photographs.

The interesting thing, for me, is that I've studied the historical use of such dummies in some detail. They were extensively used by Britain and the US (which learned from the British how to use them) during World War II. Blow-up tanks and trucks were used in the Western Desert campaign to fool Rommel's reconnaissance aircraft about the location of British armored divisions, as part of the stage magician Jasper Maskelyne's deception campaign. Later, inflatable aircraft and tanks were positioned around Britain to mask the build-up of real aircraft on other airfields in preparation for the D-Day landings. (A common problem with those early dummies was that, unless the air pressure was kept up, tank 'gun barrels' would deflate and sag, aircraft wings would fold up, and the dummies would be revealed very quickly for what they were. Even a small leak would disable them over time. Crews were kept busy patching leaks and re-inflating them.)

Inflatable dummy Sherman tank in England, 1943

Later, during the Cold War, the use of infra-red sensors led to problems for inflatable dummies, in that they didn't have the right heat signature to imitate the real thing. An observer scanning them would instantly detect that they weren't real. That led to a later generation of dummies with heating installed, so that the fake 'engine deck' of an inflatable tank would glow with heat, or the exhausts of an inflatable 'aircraft' would appear hot, as if the engines had just been shut down. It looks as if these latest-generation Russian dummies are similarly equipped.



Fly To Your Dreams said...

Some people put out an inflatable santa, or inflatable frosty the snowman in a snowglobe or other such things for Christmas decorations. This year, I'm putting out an inflated T-80!

verification word "fampers" -- The diaper with its own exhaust fan?

JohnMXL said...

Curious. A Russian company makes decoys designed to fool satellite reconnaissance.

Would this be the same Russia with which the United States just signed a new arms treaty?

One wonders if one of their new products might be dummy destroyed strategic arms...I seem to recall someone saying "Trust, but verify!" a few years ago, but I suppose he doesn't matter because he was a radical right winger!