Deception plays a major role in military operations even in the 21st century. All major powers engage in tactics and techniques to fool their enemies into thinking their forces are larger or more effective, and in places they may not be. In Russia, Maskirovka is the doctrine of strategic and tactical deception to confuse the enemy and distort his perception and influence his decision making.
One proven technique to achieve this is the inflatable army.
A recent piece in Oddity Central describes in detail Russia’s inflatable forces, which it jokingly calls military “bouncy castles.”
See video below:
Russia’s inflatable army is built by RusBal – initially, a simple balloon company founded in 1993 by a hot air balloon enthusiast. It originally focused on hot air balloons and children’s bounce houses, but “now specializes in inflatable replicas of various war machines used by the Russian military.”
Oddity Central notes that RusBal’s “creations range from life-size replicas of rocket launchers, tanks and fighter jets, to inflatable military tents and even radar stations.”
See video below:
RusBal is also developing accessories to make its inflatables more realistic. “For example,” notes Oddity Central, “the company sells a device designed to create tank tracks to make its inflatable tanks deployed in the middle of barren fields less suspicious.”
Based on a 2010 BBC report, RusBal’s inflatable creations are reportedly “made of a special material that tricks enemy radar and thermal imaging into thinking they are real weapons.” Whether this material can still fool the sophisticated sensors of today’s U.S. or NATO forces for long, is an open question.
However, in any conflict simply buying time can make the difference between victory and defeat. By delaying a response while U.S. and NATO forces confirm or deny they are real, these Russian military “bouncy castles” could allow Russian forces time to achieve their objectives elsewhere.