Russia inflates its military with blow-up weapons

Blowing up Russia's inflatable army

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The Russian military is using a cunning plan to deceive the enemy and save money at the same time: inflatable weapons.

They look just like real ones: they are easy to transport and quick to deploy.

You name it, the Russian army is blowing it up: from pretend tanks to entire radar stations.

The decoys are a hundred times cheaper than the real thing, which means Moscow will save a lot of money by blowing up its own weapons.

On the edge of Moscow, two men carry a black duffle bag into a field, then drop it on the ground.

When they open the bag, they take out a large sheet of plastic. It looks like a tent or a tarpaulin.

In fact, it's the Russian army's latest strategic weapon. It doesn't need ammunition - just air.

Start Quote

I'm proud to be making entire rocket-launchers and tanks for our armed forces. When you finish sewing them and you watch them being filled with air, it's so satisfying”

End Quote Lena, seamstress

On goes the pump, in goes the air and the plastic sheet begins to rise and take shape.

A turret appears, then out pops a long plastic gun barrel. This is an inflatable Russian tank.

State-of-the-art

When the men pump up their next piece of plastic, this one expands into a S-300 rocket launcher, complete with giant truck and inflatable rockets. It is a cross between a ballistic missile and a bouncy castle.

And waiting to be blown up are inflatable MiG fighter jets - even entire Russian radar stations.

An inflatable missile-launcher in Russia The inflatables are stitched together at a former hot-air balloon factory

These state-of-the-art stand-ins are among the most advanced military decoys in the world - much lighter, more manageable and mobile than the rubber versions used in World War Two.

What they lack in firepower, they make up for in flexibility: they are light and can be deployed quickly to deceive the enemy.

They are also very realistic. They are made of a special material that tricks enemy radar and thermal imaging into thinking they are real weapons.

The inflatables are stitched together at a former hot-air balloon factory.

"I'm proud to be making entire rocket-launchers and tanks for our armed forces," says Lena, who is stitching a surface-to-air missile system.

"When you finish sewing them and you watch them being filled with air, it's so satisfying."

Correction: On 18 October 2010, we added a reference to make clear that more basic inflatable decoys were used in World War II.

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