The U.S. intelligence officials have discovered that the barrage of ballistic missiles that Russia has fired into Ukraine contains a surprise: decoys that trick air-defence radars and fool heat-seeking missiles.
As per American intelligence officials, the devices are each about 1 foot long, shaped like a dart and white in an orange tail. The official said they are released by the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles that Russia is firing from mobile launchers across the border when the missile senses that air defence systems have targeted it.
Each one of them 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 authorized to speak publically about intelligence matters, described the devices on the condition of anonymity.
The decoys may help explain why Ukrainian air-defence weapons have had difficulty intercepting Russia’s Iskander missiles.
As per U.S. government documents, the Iskander can reach targets more than 200 miles away powered by a solid-fuel rocket motor. Each mobile launcher can fire two Iskander before it must be loaded.
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.
Richard Stevens, who has spent 22 years in the British Army as an explosive ordnance disposal soldier and later worked as a civilian bomb technician for ten years in the southern region of Iraq, Africa and other regions, said he had been exposed “to plenty of Chinese and Russian munitions, but I had never seen this.”