Russia Paints Fake Fighter Jets To Confuse Ukrainian Strikes

Russia Paints Fake Fighter Jets To Confuse Ukrainian Strikes
Credits: Planet Labs PBC


Recent satellite images have exposed Russia’s latest deceptive strategy in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, as Moscow resorts to painting fake fighter jets on the ground at military bases. The tactic, while not entirely new, underscores the importance of deception in the complex and evolving nature of the conflict. This article delves into the details of this latest development, exploring the potential motivations behind Russia’s use of decoy tactics and the implications for the ongoing struggle.

Deception in the Conflict:

The newly captured satellite images, focusing on Russia’s Primorsko-Akhtarsk air base along the Sea of Azov, reveal ghostly white silhouettes of fighter jets interspersed among real aircraft. Analysts suggest that Moscow is employing these decoys to confuse Ukraine’s weapons systems and potentially create false perceptions about the activities at its bases. This method of painting fake aircraft is not isolated to Primorsko-Akhtarsk, as similar instances have been observed at the nearby Yeysk air base.

Possible Motivations:

Several motivations behind Russia’s decision to paint fake fighter jets emerge from expert analyses. One theory posits that the deceptive measure aims to mislead Ukrainian one-way attack drones, diverting them from hitting actual aircraft. Justin Bronk, an airpower expert, suggests that the goal is to provide false targets that could decoy Ukrainian drones fitted with simple cameras for image recognition. This not only protects actual aircraft but also poses a challenge for Ukrainian forces trying to discern the true nature of Russia’s airfield activities.

Obscuring Base Activity:

Another plausible reason for Russia’s use of decoy tactics is to obscure the actual number of aircraft at a base, their on-site presence, and patterns of activity. Open-source intelligence analyst Brady Africk suggests that Russia aims to make it difficult for Ukraine to differentiate between busy and inactive bases. By doing so, Russia hopes to enhance the challenge for potential attackers, potentially deterring or complicating Ukrainian efforts to strike Russian aircraft.

Strategic Value and Cost-Effectiveness:

While painting fake fighter jets may seem like a relatively harmless and inexpensive tactic, the potential gains for Russia are significant. Africk notes that the tactic could force Ukraine to waste munitions or inadvertently disclose launch sites, providing Russia with valuable advantages. As the conflict sees an increase in attacks on Russian bases, this deceptive strategy becomes a crucial tool to counter Ukraine’s growing capabilities in targeting Russian airfields.

Historical Context:

Deceptive tactics, such as painting fake aircraft, have been commonplace throughout the Ukraine conflict. Both sides have utilized various approaches, including deploying inflatable tanks and constructing fake jets. This highlights the importance of misinformation and misdirection as integral elements in the ongoing struggle for dominance in the region.


Russia’s recent deployment of fake fighter jets at military bases reflects the intricate nature of the conflict with Ukraine. As both sides continually adapt their strategies, deception remains a critical component in shaping the outcome of the conflict. The use of decoy tactics underscores the evolving dynamics of modern warfare, where misinformation and misdirection play pivotal roles in gaining strategic advantages.

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