Two seamstresses are busy at their machines to join the shapeless pieces of grey-green nylon. It’s hard to imagine that these pieces of fabric, once stitched together, would form the fake but very similar frame of the Russian anti-aircraft vehicle SA-8. Inflated in minutes, this life-size replica would serve as a training target for Western forces and as a decoy for enemy artillery. A key piece of art for the Ukrainian military in the face of Russian bombing.
The operation takes place in a small factory of the company Inflatech, located in the Czech Republic, in the city of Decin, in the northwest of this Central European country, near the German border. If The owner of the complex, Viktor Talanov, refuses to confirm that he serves in the Ukrainian army, he admits with black humor: “Putin did good marketing for us and we doubled our revenue by 2022.”
“Highly Skilled Tailors”
With its brand new production unit installed behind the colorful windows of an old department store, the company, which employs about twenty-five people, including many Ukrainian women, is taking full advantage of the boom in the unique market for military uniforms. It offers about thirty inflatable models that mimic the SA-8 or T-72 tank, all designed on a computer, then printed and stitched into individual parts. “A team of highly skilled tailors who can read blueprints”, Mr. Talanov says.
Although the technology is believed to date back to World War II and the famous “Fortitude” operation carried out by the Allies in British territory to deceive the Nazis at a landing site, Mr. Talanov makes sure his products are more topical than ever. “They cost about 25,000 euros, which is much cheaper than a real tank and even an anti-tank missile, you’re a winner in any case”, He is proud. According to him, “Decoys are a great way to improve the survival time of front-line vehicles”.
“One of the application scenarios” Those proposed by his company are summarized as follows: “You will receive a warning about the presence of an enemy artillery system. In five minutes, you can hide your tanks and replace them with our decoys that will be bombed. » In two large black packages weighing 40kg each, the lure and inflatable – with an electric or thermal motor, depending on the model – “Can be unfolded and folded by one or two people”He assures. Inflatech also provided an air heater and reflector system to fool night thermal cameras and radars.
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