Ukrainian armed forces are using wooden replicas of US rocket systems on the battlefield, tricking the Russians into wasting “expensive” long-range cruise missiles on decoys, The Washington Post revealed, citing unnamed Ukrainian officials and photographs.
Russian unmanned aerial vehicles misidentify the replicas as the real systems and transmit their locations to naval cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea, the outlet added.
The Ukrainians have expanded production of the decoys for “broader use” after their initial deployment drew at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles in a few weeks, the paper wrote, citing a senior Ukrainian official.
All HIMARS Accounted for: Pentagon
Ukraine’s latest asymmetrical tactic may “partially account” for Moscow’s “boast” of destroying Western artillery, particularly the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.
“They’ve claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we have even sent,” The Washington Post quoted an unnamed US diplomat as saying.
Pentagon acting spokesman Todd Breasseale dismissed Russia’s claims last week, declaring that all HIMARS sent to Ukraine have been accounted for.
The US has shipped 16 HIMARS to Ukraine, while Western allies have chipped in with M270 rocket systems — the tracked version of the wheeled HIMARS — capable of firing twice the number of rockets.
Partially Explains Russian Claims
According to experts, Russia may not be entirely exaggerating its destruction of western artillery, mistaking the decoy weapons.
“If the Russians think they hit a HIMARS, they will claim they hit a HIMARS,” military researcher at the Washington think tank Institute for the Study of War George Barros told the outlet.
“Russian forces very well may be overstating their battle damage assessments after hitting HIMAR decoys.”
Aside from destroying expensive Russian cruise missiles, the artillery decoys could also make the Russians pull back their “ammunition depots and command and control nodes farther from the front lines — beyond the anticipated range of the HIMARS.”
“Such a reorganization would degrade the Russians’ ability to mass artillery fires — a tactic they’ve relied on to make gains in eastern Ukraine,” Barros added.