Business is booming for a Czech company making inflatable military decoys as war rages in Europe.
nflatech, which produces more than 30 different decoys ranging from tanks and armoured vehicles to planes and howitzers, said it saw a 30% increase in business last year.
Boss Vojtech Fresser will not say if the decoys – which include versions of the US-made high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars) – are being used by Ukrainian forces battling Russian invaders.
But he expects growth to keep rising in double figures for at least another three to five years.
“I can imagine that if we want to support a partner country which is in trouble, we would send them inflatable decoys,” he said.
“Or it already has them and, if not, it will have them, for sure.”
Inflatech, based in the northern town of Decin, is making up to 50 decoys a month.
They are sold to a number of unnamed countries and exports have to be approved by the Nato country’s government.
The firm uses lightweight materials, such as artificial silk, so the total weight of a fake tank is up to 100kg.
It takes four soldiers to operate a decoy, with 10 minutes enough to unwrap and inflate a fake piece of military hardware.
The decoys can contribute to victory by fooling enemy forces.
The trick is to deceive cameras, thermal-imaging cameras and radars to make them believe they have pinpointed a valuable target and use expensive missiles to destroy it.
The decoys – originally developed for training purposes – can cost up to 100,000 US dollars (£83,173) each.
Mr Fresser said: “If I force the enemy to destroy a thing of mine by using something which is four times – but in reality it could be 20 times more expensive – then I’m the winner economically.”
He said he would prefer to make toys for children.
“But first we have to secure a safe world for them,” he said.
“Then we’ll hopefully return to civilian projects.”
Himars have been sent to Ukraine as part of the billions of pounds in western military aid that has helped the country’s war effort since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022.