The Russian military has been actively using aerial targets as decoys to test and trick the air defense forces of Ukraine.
On March 2, Ukrainian forces shared footage showing what they claimed to be a Russian “drone” that was shot down by their air defenses. However, the object was in fact an E95M aerial target.
The E95M was developed by Russia’s Eniks to provide combat training for troops as well as to test air defense systems. The target simulates maneuverable targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles, glided guided aerial bombs, cruise missiles as well as fighter jets and helicopters.
The aerial target has an operating range of a 50 kilometers and can be equipped with Luneberg lens, corner radar reflector, pyro tracers or infrared traps.
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) March 2, 2022
The Russian use of aerial target like the E95M as decoys explains the countless false shot down claims which were made by Ukrainian forces since the start of the Russian special military operation in the country on February 24. For example, on February 27 Kiev falsely claimed downing two Russian Il-76 transport planes.
According to recent reports, the Russian military is currently preparing to expand the use of aerial decoys against the air defense forces of Ukraine by employing unmanned An-2 biplane planes. A similar tactic was successfully used by the Azerbaijani military against Armenian air defenses during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.
The use of aerial decoys is not only meant to deplete Ukrainian air defense forces, but also to expose their locations and means in order to destroy them with precision fire from a stand-off distance.
As of March 3, the Russian military claims to have destroyed 39 S-300, Buk-M1 and Osa anti-aircraft missile systems as well as 52 radar stations of Ukrainian forces.