Russia's attempt to inflate its military

An inflatable Russian tank

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BILL RADKE: The Russian military has come up with an inventive way to deceive the enemy while saving money: inflatable weapons. These decoys look just like real armaments. They're easy to transport and quick to deploy.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports for Marketplace on this unusual attempt to blow up Russia's armed forces.


STEVE ROSENBERG: On the edge of Moscow, two men carry a black duffel bag into a field and then drop it on the ground. When they open the bag, they take out a large sheet of plastic. It looks like a tent or a tarpaulin. In fact, it's the Russian army's latest strategic weapon. It doesn't need ammunition. Just air....

On goes the pump, in goes the air and the plastic sheet begins to rise and take shape. A turret appears, then out pops a long plastic gun barrel. This is an inflatable Russian tank.

When the men pump up their next piece of plastic, this one expands into a S-300 rocket launcher -- complete with giant truck and inflatable rockets. It's a cross between a ballistic missile and a bouncy castle. There are also inflatable MIG fighter jets -- even entire Russian radar stations. These state-of-the-art stand-ins are among the most advanced military decoys in the world. What they lack in firepower, they make up for in flexibility. They're light and can be deployed quickly to deceive the enemy. They're also very realistic. They're made of a special material that tricks enemy radar and thermal imaging systems into thinking they're real weapons.

Not only do they look real, they're cost effective. The decoys are a hundred times cheaper than the real thing, which means the Russia will save a lot of money by blowing up its own weapons.

RADKE: The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reporting from Moscow for Marketplace.

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