According to US intelligence, Russia is utilising secret ‘decoy dart’ missiles to hit Ukrainian sites, which they have refused to export in order to prevent the West from reverse-engineering them.
Mobile rocket launchers in Russia and Belarus are said to be firing Moscow’s Iskander-M missiles while also deploying decoy systems to trick Ukrainian air defences.
These dart-shaped munitions, initially supposed to be cluster bombs, have been noticed on social media from nearly the start of Russia’s incursion.
The Russian military uses Iskander missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometres (about 300 miles) and carry a significantly more potent payload capable of destroying large structures and certain protected institutions.
According to the New York Times, the darts defend the Iskander rockets from air defence missiles by utilising heat-seeking and radar technologies to mislead defence systems.
They confirmed that the darts shown operate with the Iskander missiles.
Some Iskander missiles are said to have been launched from Belarus, a Russian ally that has acted as a staging area for the Russian invasion.
Combating these short-range ballistic missiles has been a challenging challenge for Ukraine’s air defence systems, which are attempting to stop the barrage of missiles that are aimed at people in Kyiv and Kharkiv.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Iskander was first used in combat in Georgia in 2008. It is designed to confuse missile defences by flying on a low trajectory and manoeuvring in flight to strike targets as far as 500 kilometres away with an accuracy of 2-5 metres (CSIS).