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FM 90-2 Appendix D Employment Of Decoys


Employment Of Decoys

A decoy is used to draw the enemy's attention away from a more important area. Generally, a decoy is an imitation of something on the battlefield. Decoys may be specially manufactured items or constructed locally (using salvage). Unserviceable or combat loss items may also be used as decoys.

The primary purpose of a decoy is to provide something, for the enemy's intelligence system to find. For example, enemy HUMINT might locate a two-dimensional display. If the enemy decides to use IMINT for confirmation, all he will see in his photos are lines. However, the enemy was forced to use some of his intelligence assets on the deception, rather than on the true operation. If a decoy momentarily draws enemy attention from a real installation, it has served its purpose.

Decoys can be used for these additional purposes:

When constructing dummy or decoy installations, the following must be considered:

Decoys must be located in logical positions. They should be far enough away from actual targets to prevent enemy fire directed at the decoy from hitting the real installation. This distance will depend on the size of the installation, the type of enemy observation, and the fire expected.

A decoy simulating a permanent or semipermanent installation, such as an airfield, should have approximately the same relationship to nearby landmarks as the target itself. This is necessary to deceive the enemy, since he will use landmarks as reference points (terrain points).


Visual deception requires realistic progression. The deception activity must present personnel and vehicular movement. By comparing photographs taken at different times, the enemy can detect a lack of movement. Logical activity can be accomplished by movement of decoys and by operation of equipment. If possible, real troops should be used to provide evidence of occupancy. The activities must continue day and night and during periods of bad weather.

Various tracks may be simulated as follows:


Since every unit has its own signature, decoy installations must be constructed in accordance with the friendly unit's SOP. To be effective, the decoy installation must include features normally associated with the real installation. Following are some considerations:


A decoy installation should be constructed so that its disclosure appears to be the result of poor camouflage. This may be done by-

Decoys that are intended to divert attention from real objects (or installations) are effective only if the real objects are completely camouflaged.

When employing visual deception, all or part of a real or false military object may be camouflaged to project the desired effect. Camouflage may be done poorly (intentionally) so that the enemy will observe what we want him to observe, or a friendly unit may be completely concealed to avoid detection.

In any type or size of deception, it is important that projection of visual evidence be consistent. If a unit is being concealed by camouflage, all elements must be concealed totally.


Camouflage is essential; however, when it is impossible to conceal from the air the fact that a CP is in a certain area, a decoy CP should be erected in the vicinity. In this instance it is obvious that the decoy must look more like the real thing than its genuine counterpart. After all, we are hiding the real and portraying the false. Certain characteristic signs of occupancy should be made at the decoy. This includes-

Other signs which enhance the illusion of the presence of a CP are explained in the following examples:

One of the most difficult activities to conceal is the use of aircraft and its related support. The movement of aircraft into and out of an area is an immediate indicator to the enemy that something is happening or that an important facility (such as a CP) is located there. Since these signs cannot be eliminated, deception techniques must be used to mislead the enemy.

The enemy can detect either electronically or visually a pattern or location where aircraft continually fly over land or disappear from sight. Indiscriminate helicopter flights which can be visually, optically, and electronically detected call attention to the assembly areas, forward area rearm and refuel points, or brigade trains. Therefore, helicopter assembly areas must either be out of the enemy's radar detection range or have concealed routes into and out of the area. Entry and exit routes should be planned in as many areas as possible and used in a manner which avoids establishing a pattern. An assembly area should provide terrain masking to break the enemy radar line of sight. A thorough map analysis, coupled with the latest intelligence reports of enemy radar activity, helps determine radar-free areas.


Logistic and ammunition storage facilities are difficult to conceal. The size of these facilities and the vehicular movement into and out of the area attract the enemy's attention. The commander should consider requiring vehicles to move randomly (not in convoy) or only during periods of reduced visibility. The commander might consider using civilian trucks, converted buses, and civilian cars to carry supplies in rear areas.

Trains, houses, factories, buildings, subways, tunnels, caves, or buses should be used for physical storage of supplies and ammunition. These can also be used for maintenance, transportation, and medical operations. If practical, installations that have been partially destroyed by the enemy can be used or repaired to serve as a supply installation. The fact that the enemy considers the facility destroyed may serve to increase the realism of added camouflage.

Containers or packages can be disguised. This includes making packages look as though they contained civilian, not military, supplies. To conceal the supply activities in the combat area, supply personnel could be sent with the assault forces at the beginning of the operation. They could locate suitable logistic areas and camouflage them before supplies are brought forward.

Notional ammunition and supply dumps can be employed in a deception. Heavy concentrations of ammunition and supplies should be concealed. When the physical characteristics and size of the logistic activities make concealment impractical, construction of decoy facilities in the same general area should be considered.

Deception supply routes should be used. In the past, friendly installations and disposition of forces have been dictated by road network availability. Careful consideration should be given to using secondary or noncentrally located road networks for logistic functions. The main supply route can be used as part of the deception plan. The forward area road networks can be made deceptive by using civilian personnel and animals whenever time and the situation permit. Another means of concealing supply movement is to use civilian vehicles over several secondary roads, selecting the routes at random.

A decoy supply point or log base should be near enough to appear to be realistic. However, it should be far enough away to allow for possible errors in marksmanship of any attacker.

Prominent landmarks must be noted and the decoy located as the real installation would be. (See Figure D-1 for the positioning of decoy supply points.) The decoy must appear to have a road net pattern the same as the real installation. In addition, personnel must be detailed to the decoy site to maintain the appearance of activity. If at all possible, route and control all traffic through the decoy area to the real supply point. If successful deception is essential, this measure will greatly enhance the decoy's chance of success. For a night deception, certain types of night lighting, such as light shown through a tent opening and a decoy fire, are very effective.


The following are some general defects that often cause a decoy to fail:

It should be evident that these defects apply to almost all types of decoys and deceptions. Any one of them could render worthless an otherwise perfect effort.

Figure D-1. Positioning decoy supply points.

05-28-1996; 17:08:29