Inflatech, owned by a Russian businessman who lives in the Czech Republic, produces inflatable fake tanks and rocket launchers.
These decoys are extremely useful for Ukrainian forces exposed to their adversary’s bombardments.
Two seamstresses are busy at their sewing machine joining together shapeless grey-green nylon strips. It’s hard to imagine that, once sewn together, these pieces of fabric will form the frame of a fake but very realistic SA-8, a Russian anti-aircraft vehicle.
Able to be inflated in just a few minutes, this full-size copy can be used as a target for training Western forces, but also as a decoy to fool enemy artillery. It’s a vital device for the Ukrainian army in the face of Russian bombardment.
Production takes place in the Czech Republic, in a small factory belonging to the company Inflatech, located in Decin, a town on the German border in the northwest of the Central European country.
While the factory manager, Victor Talanov, refused to confirm that he works for the Ukrainian army, he admitted with a touch of black humor, “Putin has done good marketing for us, we doubled our sales in 2022.”
‘Highly skilled seamstresses’
With its brand-new production unit set up behind the tinted windows of a former supermarket, the company, which employs around 25 people, including several Ukrainians, is taking full advantage of the boom in the highly unusual market for military decoys.
It offers around 30 inflatable models, such as imitations of the SA-8 and the T-72 tank, that are designed on a computer and then printed in separate parts and sewn by a “team of highly skilled seamstresses capable of reading plans in diagram form,” explained Talanov.
While this technology was thought to have belonged to the Second World War and the famous Operation Fortitude carried out by the Allies in the UK to mislead the Nazis about the location of landings, Talanov maintains that his products are more relevant than ever.
“They cost around €25,000, which is a lot less than a real tank or even an anti-tank missile, so you win either way,” he said. In his opinion, “decoys are the best way to improve the survival time of vehicles on the front line.”
“One of the use cases” suggested by his company is summarized as follows: “You receive an alert about the presence of an enemy artillery system. Within five minutes, you can hide your tanks and replace them with our decoys that will be bombarded.”
Packaged in two large black packages weighing around 40 kilos each, the decoy and inflator – electrically or thermally powered, depending on the model – “can be unfolded and folded by one or two people,” the company assured.
Inflatech has even included an air heating and reflector system to fool night-time thermal imaging cameras and radar.
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