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FM 90-2 Chapter 5 Deception Means


Deception Means

To achieve victory we must as far as possible make the enemy blind and deaf by sealing his eyes and ears, and drive his commanders to distraction by creating confusion in their minds.

- Mao Tse-Tung,
1893-1976 on Distracted War

Deception means are the methods, resources, and techniques used to convey or deny information to the enemy (see JCS Pub 1). Deception requires providing false indicators to the enemy. If the supporting attack is to be portrayed as a main attack (a feint), the unit conducting the feint must give the enemy evidence that it is the main attack. The enemy collects his battlefield information through visual, olfactory, sonic, and electronic methods.


Much of the enemy's intelligence is based on what is observed on the ground or seen in aerial photographs. Hence, effective visual deception is critical to the projection of the deception story. Visual evidence alone, however, will not deceive the enemy. It must be integrated with the projection of olfactory, sonic, and electronic deception, including the movement of units. The enemy's collection capability determines the necessary combination. Since the enemy cannot see the entire battlefield continuously, visual deception efforts must be targeted for specific collector's known to be used in that particular area. The enemy's collection activities should lead him to accept the deception action as our true intention.


Two items commonly used in visual deception are dummies and decoys. A dummy is an imitation of something on the battlefield. A decoy is used to draw the enemy's attention away from a more important area. When a dummy is used to draw the enemy's attention away from some other area, it is also termed a decoy. It is not necessary to have specially manufactured equipment for use as dummies. If not extensively damaged, unserviceable or combat-loss items can be used, Also, dummies may be available from supply stocks, or they may be constructed locally using salvage. The distance from which the enemy observes friendly items or actions dictates what degree of realism is required.

Visual deception activity must present a realistic and complete picture. If you are simulating a fortification, an installation, or another activity, you must show significant items the enemy expects to see. For example, the deception activity must present personnel and vehicular movement. The enemy will expect to see tanks with gun tubes, certain types of silhouettes, and tracks on the ground. If dummy vehicles and equipment are used, then the type and number of tracks for the size unit we want to portray are necessary. It is best to make them with real equipment. Evidence of troop occupancy must also be present. Trash and other debris should be scattered in the area if it is, in fact, characteristic of the unit portrayed. By comparing photographs taken at different times, the enemy can readily detect a lack of movement. Logical activity should be accomplished by movement of dummies or decoys, by operation of equipment, and if possible, by activity of some real troops to show evidence of occupancy. These activities must continue during both darkness and inclement weather.


Camouflage is an important element in deception operations. If we are going to project visual evidence of a deception story, the enemy must not observe evidence of our true operation. We hide, blend, or disguise to prevent the enemy from observing our real activities. However, when employing visual deception, we may camouflage all or part of a real or false military object to project the desired effect. We may intentionally camouflage something poorly so that he will observe what we want him to observe, or we may completely conceal a unit we do not want observed. In any type or size of deception, it is important that projection of visual evidence be consistent. When portraying a particular unit, the use of camouflage must be consistent with that unit's prior camouflage signature (see FM 5-20).


Smoke always attracts attention, so the enemy will probably be watching when it is deployed. Smoke helps confuse the enemy, creating an element of surprise which the friendly commander can use to his advantage (see FM 3-50). (Figure 5-1 illustrates smoke deception.) Smoke supports deception operations in the following ways:

Figure 5-1 Smoke deception


Using previously prepared positions increases the realism of visual deception. Switching dummy and real items in and out of these positions may calm suspicion that the activity portrayed is a deception. It is especially important to switch real and false items if the deception must be projected for long periods of time.


If the enemy is to believe a deception activity is real, he must be able to see it. However, care must be taken to make sure that visibility of the deception activity is not too obvious, otherwise the enemy will not accept the projected deception as a real activity. While a deception activity is being projected, it is critical that real activities are concealed from the enemy's view.


Olfactory deception is the projection of odor. The smells projected during a deception must be consistent with the visual, sonic, and electronic methods used. One factor affecting the use of olfactory measures is proximity to the enemy. The enemy must be close enough to friendly units to smell our simulated battlefield odors if the olfactory measure is to be useful. Planners must calculate how the weather will influence the effectiveness of methods, The olfactory methods used must complement the deception story. Some smells common to every military force are food, explosives, and petroleum, oils, end lubricants (POL). Cooking smells can be used by an individual, a small patrol, or a larger unit to assist in adding credence to deception. Certain smells might suggest the size of a unit by indicating whether or not a dining facility is in operation. Smells can also assist in simulating small arms and artillery fire. Smells associated with vehicles such as diesel, gasoline, and oil may also be used to enhance the deception story.


Sonic deception is the projection of sounds to produce battlefield noises. It is directed against the enemy's sound-ranging gear and the human ear. What the enemy sees must be reinforced by what he hears. If a unit is being displayed to enemy surveillance, vehicle sounds and equipment noises should match those the enemy knows are used by the unit being projected. Devices used to portray the sonic picture may be real items or simulators. Real sounds should be blended with those reproduced artificially since a false sound by itself will seldom be successful on the battlefield. Additionally, sounds used should originate from logical places the enemy will accept as occupied by the unit. Sounds must be compatible with their purported origins. For example, the enemy will doubt the sound of tanks in a dense swamp. Sonic methods must also coincide with visual measures being presented. In projecting the sound of a vehicle convoy, the sound must seem to come from the convoy depicted through visual methods. Obviously, the less effective the enemy's visual observation, the more effective the projection of sonic methods. The effectiveness of sonic methods is increased at night or when the point of origin is obscured by artificial means such as smoke. The range of sound signals depends on climatic conditions, vegetation, topography, temperature, and humidity. Although distances cannot be predicted; cool, humid, still atmosphere, and water surfaces carry sound best.

Sonic methods are also used to confuse and mislead the enemy. An individual with normal hearing can recognize several separate sounds that arrive simultaneously. However, an estimate of the distance from the source is usually unreliable. It is usually perceived that a sound rising in frequency is coming towards one and a sound lowering in frequency is moving away. Prepared recordings which manipulate frequency can mislead or confuse an enemy listening from a fixed location. In any case, sonic methods to be employed should be tested in surroundings similar to the deception area whenever possible. Deception must also attempt to prevent sounds that will give away the true operation. At night, strict enforcement of basic light and noise discipline is necessary. Padding may be used when the primary interest is concealment. The operations area may also be saturated with indicators. These can obscure the sounds of preparation of movement associated with the true operational intent.


Electronic deception materials and equipment are used to manipulate, falsify, and distort enemy sensors. Several highly useful techniques can help the tactical commander portray the false. These include-

Electronic deception operations must be conducted in such a manner that realistic signatures are replicated. Electronic deception operations are often conducted as part of a larger operation. Personnel conducting electronic deception should be specially trained and skilled to ensure that all electronic signatures are orchestrated with other deception events to provide overall fidelity (see Figure 5-2). Deception planners mus remember that what the enemy collects electronically must agree with what he has seen, heard, and smelled.

When electronic deception is employed, it is crucial that these deception efforts are specifically targeted to the threat. This ensures that what is being portrayed by specific electronic means can be gathered by enemy collection efforts. For example, all electronic deception should be targeted against the known capabilities of the enemy collection threat.

Electronic deception involves actions associated with friendly electromagnetic radiations, MED, SEP, and IED (in accordance with AR 525-25).

Figure 5-2. Deception scenario.


MED involves changing the electromagnetic profile of friendly forces.


MED is performed in two basic forms: manipulative communications deception (MCD) and manipulative noncommunications deception (MNCD).

Manipulative Communications Deception

MCD requires a thorough knowledge of the friendly forces' communications signature over extended times and in various combat operations and conditions. MCD techniques include-

Manipulative Noncommunications Deception

MNCD is applied by using the same principles as MCD, but differs from MCD by the equipment used. Noncommunications emitters, versus communications emitters, are used. Activity of the noncommunications emitter is increased or decreased to indicate a difference in the activity of a unit.


SED is used to mislead the enemy as to actual composition, deployment, and capabilities of friendly forces. SED-


IED is conducted against both communications and noncommunications collection efforts. This is accomplished through imitative communications deception (ICD) and imitative noncommunications deception (INCD).

Imitative Communications Deception

ICD injects false and misleading information directly into enemy communications networks by gaining admission as a bonafide station within the enemy communications system. ICD-

Imitative Noncommunications Deception

INCD is conducted for the same purpose as ICD but involves the introduction of radiations into the enemy's electronic noncommunications systems to imitate their emissions and to confuse and deceive, It is primarily directed toward target acquisition, surveillance, and electronic reconnaissance systems. INCD-

During the planning phase of electronic deception the following must be considered, Personnel trained for various types of electronic deception must be identified and available, Enemy vulnerability to electronic deception and electronic signature portrayal must be realistic and must include-

Electronic deception is discussed indepth in FM 90-2A.


The resources available for deception operations are limited only by operational need and the imagination of the deception planner. Actual equipment and units, field expedient use of raw materials- salvaged or unserviceable equipment, and specialized deception devices can and should all be used by deception planners to achieve an effective product.

Both corps and division have battlefield deception elements operating under the staff supervision of the G3. The elements are comprised of school trained battlefield deception specialists in the areas of plans and operations, communications signature, physical signature, and electronic signature sections or teams. These sections or teams are responsible for the planning and execution of deception tasks and events in support of the commander's deception objective.


The required duration of deception efforts is an important planning consideration. Sufficient time must be available for the enemy to act or react in a desired manner to the deception story. It is undesirable to devise an elaborate deception plan if the enemy does not have sufficient time to read it and take actions which complement friendly intentions. If the period during which the deception must be maintained is shorter than the period of sensor reaction-that is, the time required for the sensor to provide data to the enemy tactical decision maker-then that specific sensor or channel of information need not be deceived. In addition, certain threat systems can be deceived for only short durations. However, the longer the required deception effort, the greater the chances of exposure. The timing of your plan should prevent the enemy from effectively shifting his center of gravity to counter your main effort once your deception is finally uncovered.


Specialized deception devices include-

These devices will significantly enhance the believability of deception operations. They can provide deceptive signatures without sacrificing the equipment necessary to conduct support operations.


The degree of success achieved by a decoy unit or facility depends on small, seemingly unimportant details typically associated with the portrayed unit or activity. These are difficult, or even impossible, to duplicate by deception personnel and devices alone.

In order for the majority of deception operations to succeed, augmentation of equipment and personnel will be required to-

While equipment decoys are realistic from certain distances and angles, their quality can never completely substitute for signatures produced by the real thing. Additionally, the quantity of deception equipment may not be sufficient to provide a realistic display. The use of real equipment, even if it is not operational, should be considered for use in support of every deception operation.


Materiel assets for the deception operation may be divided into two parts: those that help us hide the real, and those that help us portray the false,

Hiding the Real

At the core of any successful deception is OPSEC-hiding the real situation from enemy sensors. These sensors range from a reconnaissance patrol leader with binoculars to space platforms. The most commonly used techniques and materials to prevent threat detection are-

The enemy's sensor capabilities and our exposure time determine the level of OPSEC necessary to successfully hide our real situation and portray the false with deception. For example, tactical deception against a Third World army would be far simpler than against the Soviet Union which is capable of fielding a significant array of sensors. Soviet sensor technology is certain to expose off-the-cuff deception efforts for what they are. Today's tactical deception must be capable of fooling such high-tech intelligence as-

Portraying the False

The most common methods of portraying the false for tactical units may be divided into two categories: visual and electronic.

Time of exposure will have a great effect on how we plan visual deception. A low level air attack has little time to determine if a tank decoy is real or false. Nevertheless, that same tank decoy would not likely fool infrared photo interpreters, unless it contained an infrared generator to fool that sensor system. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Israelis found that simple visual decoys were sufficient to draw the fire of attacking enemy fighter aircraft. US air defense, radar, and artillery assets are priority enemy targets and are vulnerable to air attack. For these reasons, these systems represent an excellent use of decoys. Decoys of various vehicles and equipment have been designed and used in the past. Designs have ranged from fold-ups, inflatables, and bolt-ons; materials have included plastic, styrofoam, and fiberglass.

It should be apparent that the level of sophistication of deception equipment and techniques have far surpassed the canvas and baling wire approach of decoys and dummies that were used in World War II. Ad hoc efforts to deceive the enemy simply won't work on today's battlefield. Our deception devices and techniques must be able to fool an array of sophisticated enemy sensor technology. Our deception efforts must be believable. They must be afforded the same secrecy and security as real items. After World War II, Allied pilots enjoyed telling the story of a decoy airstrip that the Germans were painstakingly constructing entirely of wood, They made wooden aircraft, hangers, fuel points, and gun emplacements. The Germans, however, were lax in their security and camouflage during construction and Allied photo experts were able to identify the ruse. On the day after the construction was finally completed, a lone RAF bomber swung in low, circled the airfield once, and dropped one large wooden bomb,


Four types of deception techniques are used to present the deception story: feints, demonstrations, ruses, and displays.


The most familiar deception ploy is the feint, Feints are offensive in nature and require engagement with the enemy in order to give the appearance of a realistic main attack (see Figure 5-3).

The feint is a limited-objective attack, varying in size from a raid to a supporting attack, It should contribute to the overall accomplishment of the mission and mislead the enemy. A supporting attack is a feint when it is presented to the enemy as a main effort, A supporting attack is usually conducted during an offensive operation. When a supported attack is projected to the enemy as part of a deception story, it is also a feint,

Feints have been used successfully for several purposes, including causing the enemy decision maker to-

A feint might not always be the principal deception. A series of recurring feints, rather than a single event, might be used, For example, frequent raids may harass the enemy to the extent that he becomes confused and, to some degree, careless. He may become so accustomed to a certain pattern of activity that he will take little or no action when the friendly main attack actually occurs, He may consider it merely another harassing action,

Figure 5-3 A feint

Where does a feint take place? Obviously, the feint must fit the deception story. Looking at the terrain and battlefield dispositions, the commander or staff planner considers-

When does a feint take place? Feints may be conducted before or during the true operation. Therefore, the true operation must be considered in determining the time for the feint. Of course, timing is also influenced by the estimated time necessary for the enemy commander to react in the desired manner.

A feint before a main attack usually requires carefully determined lead time. The feint may be intended to-

The precise time a feint takes place will vary depending on the commander's intent. For example, moving additional forces will require more time than shifting fires. Therefore, when the intent is to move the second echelon forces, the feint has to be initiated well ahead of the main effort.

A feint conducted simultaneously with the main attack may cause the enemy to divert his attention and possibly a portion of his forces and supporting fires,

A feint conducted after the main attack is launched can hold the enemy's uncommitted forces in its present location. Faced with a new threat, the enemy becomes uncertain about the location of the main effort.

The commander or staff planner also considers the pattern of previous operations. If, for example, friendly forces have been in the habit of making attacks 2 hours before daylight, it may be desirable to conduct a feint at this time.

Although the timing of a feint is influenced by these factors, the time a true operation would most likely succeed is the main consideration.

HISTORICAL EXAMPLE:- A feint before the main attack took place in the first of two major battles which stopped Rommel's Afrika Korps in the fall of 1942. During the battle of Alam Halfa, General Montgomery ordered XIII Corps to attack to close the gaps through which the Germans entered the British positions in the southern portion of the battle area. The tactical purpose of XIII Corps' feint was to cause the enemy forces, especially the German 21st Panzer Division and the Italian Ariette Division, to remain in the south since Montgomery's master plan for El Alemein directed that the British main attack be made in the north.


Another deception task is the demonstration. This is a show of force on the battlefield where a decision is not sought. It is similar to a feint with one exception: No contact with the enemy is intended. A demonstration may be conducted for the purpose of deceiving the enemy by a show of force with the expectation of deluding him into an unfavorable course of action.

While the demonstration has certain advantages over the feint, it lacks the realism of the feint attack.

The advantages of a demonstration are-

The disadvantages of a demonstration are-

A demonstration can be used successfully when, during the projection of the deception story, there is a time and distance to the terrain factor that makes the lack of contact realistic. In essence, a demonstration attempts to gain enemy response in an area where a friendly force is exhibited; but as the enemy reacts, the friendly force withdraws without engagement.

HISTORICAL EXAMPLE: A demonstration is illustrated by the amphibious attack on Okinawa in April 1945 (see Figure 5-4). Th operation plan called for 10th Army to make a two-corps attack on the west side of the island with the III Marine Amphibious Corps (two divisions) and the XXIV Army Corps (two divisions). To cause the Japanese commander to withdraw some of his forces from the area of the real attack, a demonstration was staged on the southeast coast of the island. The 2d Marine Division embarked on ships and loaded into landing craft offshore from the town of Minetoga, as if preparing to land. The demonstration was repeated the following day. Upon completion of the demonstration, the division reembarked and returned to the area of the landing beaches where they reverted to Army reserve. Eventually, the division was landed in the area of fighting. The Japanese commander's estimate is not known; however, the true operation reached initial objectives 8 to 10 days earlier than expected.


Ruses are tricks designed to deceive the enemy to obtain an advantage. They are characterized by deliberately exposing false information to enemy collection means. Ruses range from simple tactical tricks employed by individual soldiers to strategic actions employed by nations. The following examples may evoke new methods of employing old tricks:

A ruse practiced by the Soviets in World War II was to travel parallel to the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) when moving into the attack position. During this movement, if they were observed, they would reverse their direction. This made it difficult for the defender to determine where the attack was to come or where the actual concentration of forces was taking place.

Figure 5-4. Demonstration example

To distort the enemy's estimate of our capabilities, we can look to Rommel for devising a successful ruse. He disguised Volkswagens to look like tanks and intermixed them with real armored units. This led the British to think he was stronger in tanks than he was.

A simple but sometimes effective ruse used by the Japanese during World War II was to learn the names of US platoon leaders. Then, when attacking US positions they would call out the name of the platoon leader in perfect English, telling him to withdraw his platoon because the remainder of the unit was withdrawing.


A unit can be tasked to conduct a display as a projection of the deception story. To do this, the unit presents a static production to the enemy surveillance system. In the course of a display, the unit may use simulations, disguises, portrayals, or any combination thereof.


In a simulation, objects or systems that actually do not exist are projected onto the battlefield. These projections have varying requirements for authenticity, depending on the proximity of anticipated enemy observation, detection equipment employed by the enemy, and the amount of camouflage used.

Ammunition and supply dumps, motor pools, airfields, air defense and field artillery emplacement, missile locations, bridges, and field fortifications have been simulated successfully.

Simulations are also useful when the deception objective calls for enemy fire. The simulation may deliberately violate one or more of the principles of camouflage, revealing the object to enemy engagement. The real object, if there is one, remains concealed.

In other instances, it may be useful to set up salvaged or fabricated decoy equipment and prepare weapons positions, deliberately exposing their phoniness. Once these positions have been dismissed as decoys by the enemy, they can be occupied as real positions (see Figure 5-5).


A disguise involves altering an object to make it look like something else. Since many military objects or installations are extremely difficult to conceal completely, it may be easier and more desirable to disguise their appearance.

Disguise can also make high value targets (HVTs) appear to be of little or no value. For example, tanks, artillery, missile transporters, and gasoline trucks may be disguised to appear as large cargo trucks; railroad tank cars may be disguised as empty boxcars or coal cars.


A portrayal presents to the enemy a unit which does not exist or is a different type than actually does exist. For example, elements of a cavalry unit might be used to portray an armor unit. Units associated with a particular activity or echelon can be used to enhance a deception operation designed to portray false friendly order of battle to enemy analysts. For example, the presence of elements of a combat support unit that doctrinally support an armor unit can lend credibility to a deception story that portrays an armor unit in a particular area. While a portrayal is considered an act in itself, it usually includes the use of disguises and simulations.

The following situation shows the relationship between the deception, objective, story, and techniques. The objective is to cause the enemy to move part of his reserve from the zone of the brigade making the main attack. The story is that the main attack will be made by the brigade in the south.

The commander, using knowledge developed during analysis, selects the technique on which his deception will be built. He then adds additional tasks to complete and support the presentation of the story.

In the case of our sketch map situation (see Figure 5-6), th phony attack in the south is a feint. There will be displays to provide the enemy with indicators of logistic buildup and MCD to indicate increased communication activity in the zone (such as ruses and demonstrations in the form of increased combat reconnaissance).

Figure 5-5. Simulation through the use of decoys

Figure 5-6. Historical feint

Instructions include steps to hide the preparation for the initial actions of the unit's true operation. In other words, the information denial requirements depend heavily on the commander's ability to visualize the battlefield and select those activities that would provide indications of the true operation.

Remember that there are many things going on in the battle area that do not appreciably change, regardless of the tactical course of action being followed. Therefore, those specific activities that can reveal the true operation must be identified as critical by the commander and staff. The commander must task participating units to those critical activities. So, in effect there are two aspects of deception that must be brought together in instructions or orders: that which we want the enemy to perceive and that which we must hide.

HISTORICAL EXAMPLE: In September 1944, the 43d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Reinforced) occupied a 23-mile front on the left flank of XX (US) Corps on the Metz Front. This squadron portrayed an armored division for a period of several weeks, and was so successful that the German order of battle maps showed the 14th (US) Armored Division to be in the area. At the time, however, the 14th Armored Division was not in Europe.

05-28-1996; 16:40:23