Inflatable military decoys, including Himars rocket launchers and Abrams tanks, have boomed production at a Czech firm since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, its officials told AFP.
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The Inflatech company, based in the town of Decin in the north of the Czech Republic, founded eight years ago, already manufactures more than 30 types of inflatable dummy weapons used to deceive the enemy.
Its officials refuse to explicitly confirm that they sell these weapons to Ukraine, citing military secrecy, but they admitted on Monday that production has jumped 100% in the past 12 months.
“We sell to many governments around the world, not just in Europe, but also in other countries, other regions,” Poven Kumaresan, director of sales and marketing at Inflatech, told reporters.
He added that about 30 employees of his company produced between 30 and 40 lures per month.
Decoys, including tanks, armored vehicles and even fighter jets, are made of synthetic silk and inflated using pumps. They weigh between 25 and 90 kilos and it takes two to four people to handle them.
According to Kumaresan, the company needs 72 hours to design a model if it has the exact blueprints of the original, and two weeks if it is working “from scratch”.
It took him 60 days to ship a Himars replica from the time his customer placed the order.
Inflatech has so far deployed “dozens” of fake Himars rocket launchers. Although its products are not weapons, they are classified as military equipment and must be approved by government authorities.
The Czech government said last month it had provided Ukraine with military aid worth around half a billion dollars since the invasion began on February 24, 2022.
Vojtech Fresser, Managing Director of Inflatech, boasts a true-to-the-original look of its products.
“If I don’t have binoculars, and I’m at a distance of 150-200 meters, I can’t tell if it’s a real weapon or a decoy,” he says.
The motor used to inflate the weapons also gives off heat that tricks enemy infrared sensors.
According to him, the inflatable decoys cost between $10,000 and $100,000, much less than the rockets used to destroy them.
“If I force the enemy to destroy my product with something that is at least four times more expensive – but in practice it is even 20 times more – I gain economically”, emphasizes Mr. Fresser.
Mr. Kumaresan says his company continues to develop its products and plans mobile inflatable lures in the future.
Inflatech, who originally made the lures for training purposes, also formerly made toys or custom models according to customers’ wishes.
“We produce according to the specific needs of the customer. We are not an e-shop where you can choose”, explains Mr. Fresser.
There are “no limits” to production or product range, and the company expects rapid growth over the next three years, he adds.
“Of course, I would prefer to produce children’s toys. But above all, we must ensure a safe world for them,” he insists.
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