Ukraine War: Inflatable tanks from the Czech Republic against Russia

Ukraine War: Inflatable tanks from the Czech Republic against Russia

Nothing but hot air: with inflatable tanks from the Czech Republic against Russia

Replica of a western-style main battle tank

The Inflatech company from the Czech border town of Decin manufactures inflatable dummies of heavy military vehicles – here a replica of a Western-style battle tank

© Michael Heitmann / DPA

The art of war involves trying to deceive the enemy. A company from the Czech Republic builds tanks from artificial silk and air, also for the Ukraine. In view of the tense security situation in Europe, the order books are full.

If a US missile launcher is sighted on the battlefield, it may be coming from a factory Czech Republic – and is only a copy. In a hall in the border town of Decin, seamstresses sit at machines to sew lengths of green fabric together. You work for the company Inflatech, which makes inflatable dummies of heavy military vehicles. For a year now, since the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine began, there has been more work here than before.

Much is top secret. According to managing director Vojtech Fresser, his company can produce around 35 dummies every month. The advantages of the deception technique are obvious to him. His products, such as inflatable battle tanks and armored personnel carriers, cost between around 10,000 and 100,000 euros. The dummies could provoke enemy fire and tempt the enemy to uselessly fire rockets that are many times more expensive.

“In this way we also win economically on the battlefield,” says Fresser. Two of his employees carry a large black bag to the courtyard in front of the company building. With just a few movements, they unfold a dummy battle tank of American design like a rubber dinghy. A compressor blows air in, and the vehicle made of artificial silk stretches upwards. A metal rod gives the cannon the necessary stability, while some residents look a bit puzzled.

Replica of a US multiple rocket launcher

Replica of a US multiple rocket launcher

© Michael Heitmann / DPA

Indistinguishable from a real tank at 200 meters

But what looks simple is actually high-tech. “If you don’t use binoculars, you can’t tell from a distance of 150 to 200 meters whether it’s real technology or not dummy It is much more important to imitate the heat and radar signature true to the original. He does not want to reveal exactly how this is done. Just this much: A specially designed device ensures that the areas that are warm are warm should.

The company started out in 2014 as a garage company that also occasionally made bouncy castles for children. Fresser does not see the fact that two of his co-founders are originally from Russia as a problem. They have long since been integrated into the Czech Republic. Deliveries to NATO, EU and partner countries. The company now has 20 employees – soon there will be twice as many. Sales of at least 150 million euros are expected for this year. That’s a lot of money in the structurally weak region on the border with Saxony.

Russia also uses inflatable dummies

In the Ukraine-War, inflatable military vehicles are also a known know-how on the Russian side to deceive the enemy. As early as 2009, the state news agency Ria Novosti reported on dummies of Russian T-72 and T-80 main battle tanks, the S-300 air defense system and Su and MiG fighter jets. Moscow is also trying to protect strategic missile systems such as Iskander or Topol-M with the replicas.

Russian military bloggers reported that there are special units in the Russian army that specialize in such deception maneuvers. The devices were also used in war. At the end of January, the Ukrainian general staff announced that Russian troops in the Zaporizhia region were trying to use inflatable tanks to feign a larger presence.

An employee spreads a dummy multiple rocket launcher on the floor before inflating it

During a demonstration, an employee spreads a dummy multiple rocket launcher on the floor before it is inflated

© Michael Heitmann / DPA

The Czech Republic is a major supporter of Ukraine

In the fight against the Russian invasion, the Czech Republic is one of the most important supporters of the government in Kiev. The list of real military equipment that the government in Prague and armaments companies have delivered so far is long: 89 main battle tanks, 226 infantry fighting vehicles, 33 multiple rocket launchers – and much more.

“We knew from the first moment – also because of our own historical experiences – that we had to work for Ukraine,” said Prime Minister Petr Fiala recently. The Warsaw Pact countries invaded what was then socialist Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to crush the Prague Spring democracy movement. The last Russian soldiers did not leave until June 1991.

yks / Michael Heitmann

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