Ukraine Pulls Costly Fast One on Russia With Wooden Decoys

Russia lured into wasting expensive cruise missiles on replicas of HIMARs rocket launchers
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Ukraine Pulls Costly Fast One on Russia With Wooden Decoys
This file photo shows Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Russell operating a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. Ukraine has successfully deployed decoy HIMARs to lure Russian artillery and missile batteries to waste ammunition.   (Corey Dickstein/Savannah Morning News via AP, File)

Ukrainian forces have tricked the Russians into wasting costly cruise missiles on "dummy targets," per the Washington Post. Based on photographs and interviews with US and Ukrainian officials, the Post reports that Ukraine has deployed wooden replicas of HIMARs rocket launchers, which can be difficult to tell apart from the real thing, especially from the perspective of Russian drones used to relay targeting info. "When the [unmanned aerial vehicles] see the battery, it's like a VIP target," says one Ukrainian official. As a result, Ukraine claims the replicas lured at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles in recent weeks, inspiring Ukraine to deploy more of the dummies. At around $6.5 million apiece, the Kalibr is among the costliest weapons in Russia's arsenal, which is already significantly depleted and unlikely to be replenished soon thanks to export controls on microchips.

HIMARs and other long-range, guided artillery systems have given Ukrainian forces a boost in recent months, enabling them to degrade key Russian military infrastructure far from the front lines, including bases, ammunition depots, command centers, and supply lines. The systems have also become high-priority targets for Russian commanders. The Post says the use of decoys may explain Russia's recent "unusually boastful" reports about destroying US-made systems. "They've claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we have even sent," says one US diplomat. Earlier this month, the Pentagon denied Russia claims, noting it hasn't destroyed any of the 16 HIMARs the US has sent to Ukraine.

The use of decoys is in keeping with Ukraine's use of unconventional and asymmetrical tactics as it continues to battle a far larger Russian army. As the New York Times reported Sunday, Ukraine has increasingly turned to "MacGyvered" weaponry, including speedboats and trucks mounted with missiles and rocket systems. They're also using cheap, plastic drones to deliver grenades and other munitions with devastating if small-scale effect on Russian positions, and they've managed to "rejigger" American-made sensors and missiles for use on Soviet-era MiG-29 aircraft, something "no air force had ever done," per the Times. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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