Satellite Images Expose Russia’s Fake Fighter Jets Aiming to Mislead Ukraine


Recent satellite imagery has revealed an odd strategy Moscow is using in its ongoing war with Ukraine – the painting of fake fighter jets on the ground at Russian military bases. 

The deceptive move, while not unprecedented, sheds light on the importance of strategic deception in warfare. 

Primorsko-Akhtarsk Air Base Revelation

The most recent example of this deceptive strategy is evident at Russia’s Primorsko-Akhtarsk air base, situated along the Sea of Azov. 

A satellite image captured on December 28 by Planet Labs PBC and obtained by Business Insider reveals several fixed-wing aircraft parked in a row. Among them are silhouettes of two fighter jets, distinctively painted in a ghostly shade of white, unlike the conventional blue and gray tones of the genuine aircraft. 

Another silhouette, mirroring the base’s actual aircraft, lacks a discernible shadow.

Analysts speculate that such tactics aim to confuse Ukraine’s weapons systems and create false perceptions about the activities at Russian bases. The painted decoys were absent in an August 17 image of the same base, indicating that they were added sometime within that four-month period.

Primorsko-Akhtarsk is not an isolated case; similar deceptive activities have been observed at other bases. On June 26, satellite images of the Yeysk air base showcased three fighter jet silhouettes painted in bright white. 

Decoding Russia’s Deceptive Tactics

Recent satellite imagery has revealed an odd strategy Moscow is using in its ongoing war with Ukraine – the painting of fake fighter jets on the ground at Russian military bases.

A subsequent image on July 16 revealed changes, including the removal or replacement of the painted fighter aircraft, indicating a dynamic and evolving strategy.

The reasons behind Russia’s deployment of fake fighter jets vary, with analysts offering multiple interpretations. 

One rationale is to confuse Ukrainian weapons targeting systems, potentially diverting one-way attack drones fitted with simple cameras away from genuine aircraft. 

By obscuring the actual number, presence, and patterns of aircraft at a base, Moscow aims to make it challenging for Ukraine to discern the operational status of its bases.

Brady Africk, an open-source intelligence analyst, suggests that the tactic is a response to Ukraine’s increasing capabilities in striking Russian airfields. While the effectiveness of these decoys remains uncertain, their potential to trick Ukraine into wasting munitions or revealing launch sites is deemed “incredibly valuable” for Russia.

Deceptive tactics, such as painting fake aircraft, have been employed throughout history in various armed conflicts. From World War II to the Vietnam War, militaries have used decoy techniques to mislead the enemy and redirect attacks away from operational aircraft. 

Decoys, including fake airfields and misleading aircraft, serve as non-lethal defensive mechanisms to protect vulnerable airfields lacking passive and active defenses.

As geopolitical conflicts continue to evolve, tactics such as these showcase the strategic value of misdirection and camouflage. 

The dynamic nature of these decoy tactics adds a layer of complexity to modern warfare, emphasizing the ongoing need for military forces to adapt and innovate in response to evolving threats and technologies.

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