Russia`s new secret weapon... inflatable tanks

They may look like real tanks and missiles, but some of the weapons in Russia`s arsenal may not all be what they seem.

Khotkovo: They may look like real
tanks and missiles, but some of the weapons in Russia`s
arsenal may not all be what they seem.

For the army is making increasing use of inflatable
replicas -- decoys deployed in a cunning attempt to deceive
potential enemies.

In a workshop in Moscow`s suburb Khotkovo, employees
of inflatable equipment company Rusbal sew the fabric used to
create fake weapons for their main customer -- the Russian

Established in 1993, Rusbal replicates military
equipment, such as T-80 tanks, S-300 missiles or fighter jets,
for an undisclosed price, but also manufactures inflatable
castles and other toys for children.

"These machines are effective in deceiving the enemy,
and they protect the real equipment," the Rusbal plant
director, Victor Talanov, told a news agency.

"This kind of technology has existed in the army for a
long time, since World War II," he said.

In another recent example, the Serbian army used
similar decoys during the country`s bombardment by NATO forces
in 1999 and the Alliance actually destroyed fewer genuine
targets than it thought.

Talanov said the idea to work for military belonged to
his father, Rusbal`s CEO who worked in the Soviet era for the
military-industrial complex and later developed links with the
Russian army.

"He realised that with these technologies, we can
solve problems in the military field."

Rusbal`s proud employees said it`s very difficult to
distinguish a real tank from a fake one.

For example, the equipment they produce has the same
thermal footprint as the weapons it imitates.

"From the height of a 10-storey building, if a real
tank and a false one stand side by side, they make almost no

Our machines emit the same heat and reflect radio
waves in the same way as real ones," said Lyudmila Stepanova,
Rusbal`s chief technology expert.

Another bonus is that they are easy to deploy -- a
tank inflates in minutes.

According to Rusbal, Russian technology of
manufacturing fake weapons is far more innovative and
developed than in other countries, such as China or Canada,
which also use similar equipment.

A Russian-manufactured mock tank weighs only 90
kilograms against 300 kilograms for its European analogue.

"Before, we had to inflate a model and to bung it up
like a mattress. Now, air is blown continuously into the tank.

This allows us to use lighter materials, which inflate faster
and are more resistant to cuts," Talanov said.