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Inflatable tanks are not toys

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Inflatable tanks are not toys

For some years now, a company in the Czech Republic has been producing a range of fake war vehicles, which include tanks, fighters and anti-aircraft systems: they are all inflatable and can be used as bait to deceive possible enemy bombings. The company is called Inflatech and in the last 18 months it has had a big growth in turnover, the result of an increase in demand probably caused by the war in Ukraine.

There is no official confirmation that the fake inflatable armaments are used by the Ukrainian army, but the recent introduction of a new model replicating the US HIMARS rocket launchers (which have been supplied to the Ukrainian army since last July) seems to be a clue in this sense. The owner of the company is Victor Talanov, a Russian who is very critical of the current regime of Vladimir Putin. He left the country in 2014 and told The worldthat has recently visited his company: «Putin did good marketing for us, we doubled our turnover in 2022».

A model that replicates the HIMARS rocket launcher (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Inflatech is based in Decin, near the border with Germany: it has 25 employees and produces about fifty fake vehicles a month. Its catalog includes about 30 different models and the manufacturers ensure that from a satellite view its products are practically indistinguishable from real military vehicles: each one costs around 25,000 euros, can be inflated with hot air so as to deceive even heat-sensitive night cameras and has features fit to look real on radars.

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Each vehicle is inflatable and foldable by a couple of men and can be transported in two bags of about 40 kilograms each. Talanov explained to The world that the price of a mock vehicle is obviously less than not only the vehicle it replicates, but also the price of the missiles that can be used by enemy forces to destroy it.

Although they are fake means, their sale is regulated by the Czech laws on military material and is therefore controlled and subject to confidentiality: it has only been confirmed that among the buyers there are NATO member armies, not better specified. On the Ukrainian front, the presence of inflatable vehicles has not yet been confirmed, while there has been evidence of the existence of fake wooden tanks, much more complex to move.

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The use of fake military vehicles, in papier-mâché and other materials, had been one of the stratagems used by the Allied Forces during the Second World War, before the Normandy landings. L’Operation Fortitude it was a gigantic misdirection that was quite successful: the goal was to convince Nazi Germany that the landing would take place on the coasts of Norway and in Calais. False communications and false information from spies were used, but fake military assets were also deployed, including many landing ships.

– Read also: The US “ghost” Army that deceived the Nazis

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