In an age of ultra high-tech warfare, trickery similar to that used during the Trojan War 3,000 years ago still plays a part in the Persian Gulf war. Decoys--replicas of real equipment or weapons--from the sophisticated to the simplistic are employed. According to U.S. officials, Iraq has successfully deceived allied aircraft on bombing runs. The allied forces, according to at least one U.S. firm, also have a stock of decoys.
Among the decoys and disguises believed in use by Saddam Hussein's forces.
* Wooden tanks covered in tin foil, to confuse radar into thinking a tank has been hit. * Buckets of oil ignited on tank dummies--or even on serviceable tanks--to imply the whole unit is on fire. * Decoy missile launchers and anti-aircraft positions made of cardboard, plywood and aluminum. * Netting in desert-style camouflage used to hide tanks, airplanes and strategic sites. * Italian-made, full-scale copies of tanks and planes--made of metal and fiberglass. Some possess a metallic mass, which would be picked up by radar. If furnished with a crude heat source, they would attract heat-seeking missiles. * Decoys packed with drums of oil to simulate exploding materiel. * Phony weapons factories or chemical arms plants, created by changing the contours of some non-essential buildings to look suspicious. * "Cratered" runways that are really intact, made by painting holes and pits on serviceable airfields to discourage more bombing. Conversely, destroyed runways have been papered over to look intact to encourage unneeded bombing. * Mock aircraft shelters and artillery, some of which emit fake electronics signals. * Missiles hidden in portable, innocent structures such as mosques.
THE ALLIED DECOY ARSENAL
Maryland-based TVI produces sophisticated battlefield decoys, but Department of Defense restrictions prevent the firm from talking about its contributions--if any--to the war effort. Among the planned uses for its products:
* Fake tanks, trucks, and jeeps designed to trick enemy gunners into firing at an erroneous target.
* Phony equipment to deceive an enemy into believing it's up against an armored division instead of a handful of tanks.
* Some look-alike tanks are used for target practice in training tank crews.
* A British firm makes camouflage netting, fake tanks with thermal and radar "silhouettes," which are mostly used as targets for British pilots.
MAKING AMERICAN FAKES
From 200 yards away, the vehicles look remarkably real--but on closer inspection, it turns out that the tanks and trucks turned out by TVI in Maryland are actually pictures painted on canvas and stretched over a collapsible metal frame. The components of one decoy, an M-1 tank:
Two or three-dimensional
Entire unit fits in a duffel bag.
Weighs about 25 to 50 pounds.
Can be assembled by one person in about three minutes.
Some tank decoys are embedded with panels that heat up when hooked to a portable generator, mimicking the heat "signature" of a real tank. The aim is to fool a target-seeking infrared system.
A tape recorder and speakers added to the decoy can disguise the number of personnel.
Tank decoys cost about $3,000 or $4,000, compared to $3 million for the real thing.
Dupery in warfare is nothing new. In the Trojan War, legend has it that the Greeks hid soldiers inside a huge wooden horse, which the curious Trojans dragged inside the gates of the city. Later, the Greeks crept out, let in their compatriots, and massacred the people. In World War II, the U.S. created an dummy army unit in southern Britain to misguide the Germans about the Normany invasion. The Soviets have made great use of disguise, although in one case in the 1970s, a fake submarine was exposed when it bent in half. And decoys were believed widely used in the Iran-Iraq war.
Source: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post