Steel companies produce realistic dummies of military equipment

From the very beginning of the war to this day, Ukrainian business, including iron and steel enterprises, has helped and is helping the army. Many iron and steel enterprises began to produce products needed for defense, for example, anti-tank hedgehogs and steel spikes, plates for body armors, etc. As hostilities continued, business began to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine more specifically, based on specific needs – protecting people and equipment, deceiving the enemy . The latter is not characteristic of business functions, but is fully correlated with the specifics of military operations.

Steel efforts

At the beginning of the war, the resources of iron and steel enterprises (machinery, construction materials, fuel, people) were used to create defensive positions around the cities of deployment – roadblocks, trenches and various fortifications. However, almost simultaneously steel enterprises began to produce anti-tank hedges and spikes for damaging the wheels of motor vehicles on the basis of their steel products. Over time, the range of products for military use and/or for the needs of the AFU expanded significantly.

If we bring together the entire range of products produced by iron and steel enterprises for the needs of the military, they can be grouped as follows:

General support of the Defense Forces

  1. Buggy for overcoming off-road conditions.
  2. Sapper cats and shovels.
  3. Trench stoves.
  4. Pipes and profiles for making beds.

Protecting people

  1. Plates for body armors.
  2. Minibastions.
  3. Dugout modules (2*6 meter structure to strengthen a defensive structure).
  4. Armored shields for machine gunners and large-caliber weapon operators.

Equipment protection

  1. Steel mesh shelters for catching loitering drones.
  2. Models of weapons systems.

“The main task of these engineering structures is to save the lives of servicemen. Every missile, every shell, every drone used by the aggressor on an object made of steel and plywood is to reduce its ability to use these munitions against equipment and personnel of the AFU. Metinvest back in 2022 responded to the request of the military and thanks to a team of professionals was able to establish the production of mockups in a short time. For us, this is only a small part of the contribution that a private company can make to the common goal – the victory of Ukraine,” notes Olexander Mironenko, Chief Operating Officer of Metinvest Group.

Layout practice

At the moment, the pinnacle of engineering thought and a logical continuation of assistance to the military with the help of produced steel products and other improvised materials is semi-serial production of mock-ups of various types of military equipment at the facilities of steel enterprises, which are used as decoys, prompting the Russian army to spend expensive ammunition (missiles, shells or drones).

We can mention such types of steel products that are used in the production of layouts: rebar, channel, angle, profile pipe, wire rod, flat rolled steel, rolled sheet, mesh. As additional materials, in addition to steel products, containers from various products, plastic pipes, rigid foam, used tires, wood and scrap are used in the production of models. For example, a model of a mortar is made from a section of sewer pipe attached to an old satellite dish.

In the beginning, the mock-ups were not very realistic, but as they were worked on, the models were improved and became more and more similar to real pieces of military equipment – right down to the location of nuts and screws. Key production principles:

  • maximum possible similarity;
  • ease of processing materials;
  • lightness of the layouts so that they can be transported;
  • ease of recovery in case of minor damage after a combat defeat;
  • low cost of production.

Metinvest has set up the production of models of Soviet D-20 howitzers, American M777 howitzers, mortars, Ukrainian and Western radar systems and other equipment. Now the company can produce 10-15 different models per month.

“A few months ago we launched this production line to achieve maximum similarity with real weapons. At first, we collected photos of real equipment, in particular, Ukrainian, American and European models. And after the technology was fine-tuned, we scaled up production. We have already produced about 250 models and are constantly expanding our arsenal,” said Oleg Davydenko, Director of the Corporate Communications Department at Metinvest.

At the same time, other producers produce high-quality replicas of Soviet-style tanks in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as mobile missile systems or HIMARS.

Production of layouts has different labor costs. Thus, it takes four days to produce a model of a D-20 howitzer and 14 days to produce an American M777. A copy of the Sentinel A4 radar can be produced in three weeks, and the more complex 35D6M radar in a month. The cost of each mockup ranges from a few hundred to several thousand euros.

As the experience in production and the demands of the AFU grow, the moulages of military equipment are constantly being improved. For example, in addition to plywood, which does not give the necessary thermal radiation to deceive Russian thermal imaging radars and drones, steel is used. The “assortment” of moulages is also being expanded to meet the needs of the military, which is constantly receiving new Western weapon systems. Thus, Metinvest specialists together with the military are constantly improving the models to maximize their effectiveness.

Efficiency mark

The creation of false targets is not a new practice; they were used as far back as World War II. The aggressor’s army also uses inflatable mock-ups of T-72 tanks, but even not in the strongest optics of Ukrainian drones one can see their ruggedness due to the low quality of production.

Due to their visual similarity to real models, the mockups created by metal companies have already proved their effectiveness at the front – they became targets for the aggressor, saving real equipment and lives of Ukrainian soldiers.

The success of the production is measured by the number of destroyed moulages. According to preliminary estimates, Russian troops destroyed about half of the mockups of military equipment that Metinvest produced for the AFU.

“We don’t count the number of baits made, but the number destroyed, and this is the main thing for us,” said Metinvest. “The sooner our models are destroyed, the better for us.”

According to Oleg Davydenko, Director of Metinvest’s Corporate Communications Department, the demand for new layouts is growing, which shows that they effectively fulfill their function.

“Russian troops recently fired a Kh-35 missile worth about €1 million to destroy a dummy radar system. We spent $1000 on the radar model,” adds the head of one of Metinvest’s enterprises on condition of anonymity.

For more than a year and a half of Russian aggression, Metinvest has already allocated UAH 2 billion to support the defenders through Rinat Akhmetov’s «Steel Front» initiative. In particular, 150 thousand armored vests, more than 200 mobile shelters, more than 250 models of military equipment, etc. were manufactured and purchased at its own facilities.

Modern war does not require a lot of steel and steel products, it is more technological. But Ukrainian enterprises find their niches and contribute to Ukraine’s defense capability.