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Russia deploys mystery device in Ukraine

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The Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles.

RUSSIA: American intelligence officials have discovered that the barrage of ballistic missiles Russia has fired into Ukraine contain a surprise: decoys that trick air defence radars and fool heat-seeking missiles.

The devices are each about 30cm long, shaped like a dart and white with an orange tail, according to an American intelligence official. They are released by the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles that Russia is firing from mobile launchers across the border, the official said, when the missile senses that it has been targeted by air defence systems.

Each is packed with electronics and produces radio signals to jam or spoof enemy radars attempting to locate the Iskander-M, and contains a heat source to attract incoming missiles.

The official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about intelligence matters, described the devices on the condition of anonymity.

The use of the decoys may help explain why Ukrainian air defence weapons have had difficulty intercepting Russia’s Iskander missiles.

Powered by a solid-fuel rocket motor, the Iskander can reach targets more than 320km away, according to United States Government documents.

Each mobile launcher can fire two Iskanders before it must be reloaded.

Photographs of the dart-shaped munitions began circulating on social media two weeks ago. They had stumped experts and open-source intelligence analysts – many of whom mistook them for bomblets from cluster weapons based on their size and shape.

The devices are similar to Cold War decoys called “penetration aids”, the intelligence official said, that have accompanied nuclear warheads since the 1970s and were designed to evade anti-missile systems and allow individual warheads to reach their targets. The incorporation of the devices into weapons such as the Iskander-M that have conventional warheads has not been previously documented in military arsenals.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022 – 01:00

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