Russia is painting decoy Tu-95 strategic bombers on the tarmac of its main bomber air base, report says

  • Russia is painting silhouettes of its valuable Tu-95 strategic bombers on the tarmac of an air base.

  • The decoys could be an attempt to confuse possible Ukrainian strikes, The War Zone reported.

  • But they are easy to spot even on commercially available satellite imagery.

Russia is painting the silhouettes of its prized Tu-95MS strategic bombers at its main bomber base as a decoy, a report says.

Satellite imagery obtained by The War Zone shows the two-dimensional painted decoys on the tarmac of Engels-2, a strategic bomber base east of Saratov in Russia.

The War Zone noted that the pictured decoys might be made with a cloth or canvas, but it said paint was most likely given the lack of dimension seen in the images taken on September 29 by Planet Labs.

An image of decoys can be seen here.

Russia has been known to attempt makeshift defenses of its bombers at the base, previously using car tires to shield its Tu-95s.

The newly pictured decoys appear to also have what looks like car tires depicted on them, suggesting that they have tried hard to make them appear realistic.

The Engels air base has come under attack several times since the conflict in Ukraine began, despite being deep in Russian territory, hundreds of miles southeast of Moscow.

Russia blamed the attacks on Ukraine, but Kyiv did not claim them, keeping in line with its policy to not claim attacks on Russian soil.

The decoy paintings at Engels-2 could be aimed at confusing any possible Ukrainian strike operations or drone operators.

However, The War Zone notes that they are unlikely to be effective, given that it is easy to spot as fake even in commercially available satellite imagery.

The use  of infrared reflective or absorptive paints could confuse weapons like cruise missiles, but it's unclear how effective the two-dimensional decoys will be, the outlet said.

Decoys can be highly effective

fake vs real decoy tank russia
Side-by-side photos of a real Russian T-72 tank on the battlefield in August 2023, and a decoy one in September 2023.116th Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine/110th Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine/Insider

Decoys — whether they're inflatable, wooden knockoffs, or high-quality lookalikes — can be highly effective on the battlefield, military experts say.

Russia has used various decoy tactics on the battlefield in Ukraine, including using inflatable tanks.

A military expert previously told Insider that those decoys were unlikely to work as they were not very convincing.

Ukraine has also deployed decoys during the conflict, including fake wooden tanks, fake rocket launchers made of wood, and decoy radar reflectors made of cut-up barrels designed to lure Russia into using up valuable munitions.

They are mainly used to trick enemy forces into wasting ammo and potentially giving away their position.

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