Drone video appears to show inflatable Russian tanks on the battlefield, highlighting the role decoys and deception are playing in the war

  • A newly surfaced video from a drone appeared to show a field full of inflatable Russian T-72 tanks.

  • It's not the first time either side has employed decoys to confuse the enemy and waste weapons.

  • Ukraine reportedly saw deflated Russian tanks in Zaporizhzhia and tricked Russia with wooden HIMARS.

A newly surfaced aerial video from the war in Ukraine, captured by a drone, appeared to show inflatable decoys of Russian tanks on the battlefield.

Both sides have found plenty of ways to employ inflatable decoys, wooden knockoffs, and deceptive lookalikes throughout the war, often as a cunning trick to draw enemy fire, forcing them to waste ammunition and potentially give away their position.

On Monday, a video apparently filmed by a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle surfaced online showing what open-source intelligence accounts and bloggers identified as mock Russian T-72s near the front in Zaporizhzhia. Insider could not independently verify the details of the video, including when and where it was shot. In the video, the drone appears to spot three fake tanks positioned in the area, some covered in vines and shrubbery — possibly for camouflage, though Russia sometimes doesn't do that very well for its manned assets.

While two potential decoy T-72s are hidden near tree cover, one is out in the open.

The video was initially posted on Telegram by a group identifying as part of the 116th Mechanized Brigade, saying Ukrainian forces should "be careful" and urging them to "not spend the ammunition in vain."

"There are more and more of them on the battlefield now," the group said of the inflatable Russian weapons. It's unclear exactly how extensively these are used.

The use of decoys to deceive enemy forces, prompting them to waste valuable and expensive weaponry trying to take out cheap and expendable fakes, is a long-practiced war tactic, and this newly emerged video may offer a good look at the Russian military's deception tactics, or maskirovka (masking).

There have been many documented cases throughout the war, including inflatable — but sort of deflated — tanks in Zaporizhzhia earlier this year, fake MiG-31 fighter jets, and decoy S-300 missile systems.

Even before the war, Moscow prioritized the development of rather uncanny stand-ins — even entire radar stations — that could be inflated and transported quickly on the battlefield, deceiving enemy forces.

Ukraine, too, has made the enemy do a double take with fakes and phonies. Last August, Kyiv's forces employed decoy US-provided High Mobility Artillery Systems that tricked Russian forces into wasting valuable cruise missiles to the point where Moscow was boasting they'd destroyed more HIMARS than the US had actually given to Ukraine.

More recently, the Ukrainians were building fake howitzers out of sewer pipes to get the Russians to lob drones at them. And there have been plenty of other fakes.

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