Easy to transport and even easier to deploy, the Russian military is sure looking good. But get too close and you'll see its little secret: it's inflatable.
The Russian military has been investing in inflatable decoys vastly cheaper than actual military equipment, blow-up plastics that offer the illusion of anything ranging from pretend tanks to complete radio stations.
The weapons deceptively start as large plastic sheets, shipped in a black duffel bag. With the assistance of little other than an air pump, a tank can take form in a matter of seconds, ready to roll out -- with a push from a few soldiers, of course.
These decoys lack any actual fire-power defense, of course, though they are made of special material that tricks enemy radar and thermal imaging into thinking they are real. According to an article in the Russian Times, Rusbal, a private Russian company, makes inflatable S-300 missiles, T-80 and T-72 tanks, and Su-27 and MiG-31 fighter jets -- all life-size and, the company says, extremely difficult to distinguish from the real thing when viewed by radar or satellite.
In an armed conflict, enemy pilots cannot discern immediately that the military equipment they are about to attack is fake, the article noted. "And time is money," said Rusbal's marketing director, Viktor Talanov, whose father founded the company in 1993.
The company, which makes the backlight and guidance vehicle shown above, says the life-size air models can be used to create entire fake military bases and positions of forces. And Rusbal notes that they keep looking believable -- even when partly damaged by gunshots and explosions.
The inflatable weapons are stitched at a former hot-air balloon factory, where sewers have shown great enthusiasm for their workload.
"I'm proud to be making entire rocket-launchers and tanks for our armed forces," sewer Lena said in an interview with the BBC. "When you finish sewing them and you watch them being filled with air, it's so satisfying."