Terrorists of the Islamic State (IS) group actively use fake tanks and armored vehicles in Mosul in order to deceive US fighter jets.
As the Iraqi Army reached positions of the Islamic State terrorist group in the area of Mosul and inside this city in the autumn of 2016, a curious sight appeared – fake Humvee vehicles and wooden dummy tanks, discovered inside a building, War Is Boring reported.
Photos, published in late November, presumably show a dummy tank on the bed of a semi-truck, which was wheeled out by IS terrorists.
— Haidar Sumeri (@IraqiSecurity) November 11, 2016
As the author of the article noted, “deception is central to Islamic State tactics, and dummy vehicles are an old trick that has been around as long as tanks have rolled into combat.” Hundreds of dummy vehicles – tanks and planes – were constructed by the Allies during World War II in order to deceive the Germans, regarding placement of their forces and their plans. During the NATO air campaign over Kosovo in 1999, fake artillery, anti-aircraft missile launchers and bridges were built by the Yugoslav Army, and NATO aircraft bombed them.
Since that time, methods of surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance of the US Air Force have significantly improved. However, as the article reads, “war is inherently confusing, and as with other forms of camouflage and deception, the point is not to be foolproof but to introduce doubt and increase one’s relative margin of safety.”
Presumably, fake tanks should be dissimilar from real ones from the air, as they don’t emit their own heat sources and cannot be picked up on infrared sensors. But, at the same time, a few hundred dollars worth of construction materials dressed up like a vehicle, which causes a mistake and makes a US pilot to strike it with a $25,000 laser-guided bomb, it is probably worth the cost and effort for the IS.
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) November 30, 2016
The author noted that a pilot might blow a dummy vehicle up just to be sure, as US pilots don’t always have a clear idea what they’re bombing in Iraq because IS terrorists hide inside common structures and move around in civilian vehicles, and US military’s aerial strike reports often reference nondescript “vehicles” and “buildings.”
In addition, US fighter jets regularly rely on drones to guide their bombs to their targets. However, as the author of the article noted, “drone imagery is typically poorer, grainier and lower-resolution than you might think.”
US joint air controllers are more precise. Their job is to spot targets from the ground, embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but they can’t be everywhere. That leaves manned aircraft and drones to pick up the slack.
At the same time, according to the article, fake tanks will not make much difference, regarding the outcome of the Mosul offensive, but they can fool a pilot or drone operator once or twice, and this modest goal might be what terrorists are trying to achieve.