Satellite images show Russia painted fake jets at airfields to confuse Ukraine

Brady Africk Twitter / Planet Labs

Recently captured satellite images from a Russian military base seem to reveal that Moscow troops attempted an age-old trick in a bid to confuse Ukraine – optical illusion.

Images captured and shared on social media show military jets lined up at Russia’s Primorsko-Akhtarsk air base. 

At first glance, it just seems to be jets lined up in a row. But on closer inspection, it appears that one (or two) of the jets are quite different from the rest.

Intelligence analyst Brady Africk shared a close up of the jets in a post on X (formerly Twitter), which showed the painted aircraft (decoy) looks flat and without dimensions or shadows when compared to the real ones.

The images, captured on December 28, 2023, were taken by Planet Labs PBC, a San Francisco-based imaging company, and were obtained and published by Business Insider.

Analysts believe that the artful decoy tactic is likely used to create false leads and confuse Ukraine intelligence. It can also prevent outsiders from knowing the actual number of aircraft / fleet the Russian military has.

According to Africk, this is not the first time that Russia has used an optical trick. In June 26, 2023, images captured by Planet Labs PBC revealed painted aircraft lining the country’s Yeysk airbase, a combined civilian and military airfield.

If the lack of shadows and difference in color is not enough of a giveaway, eagle-eyed military and aircraft enthusiasts shared some tips on how to distinguish fake jets from the real ones. 

Camouflage, concealment, and deception are tactics in war that have been used for centuries. Decoy and dummy airfields from the Second World War (1941) have been recorded to keep Germans away from Thrumster in Scotland.

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