When a commander employs physical means he is utilizing specific activities or resources aimed to influence his target. When we think of deception, this is normally the means that quickly come to mind. Normally, physical means are aimed at the visual senses of the target. However, there are also ways that physical means can be focused on the senses of hearing and smelling (we will highlight those shortly).
There are several keys to making physical means as effective as possible. First, the activity must be believable to the target. Second, the activity must be witnessed by the enemy’s surveillance systems. Finally, physical means are more believable if they are enhanced with technical and administrative means.
There are many types of physical means. These include:
- The Employment of Reconnaissance Forces. For example, you may send recon forces in an area you do not plan to maneuver through. This is done to sell to the enemy that you are planning to maneuver in that area.
- Maneuver of Forces. Nothing makes someone take notice more than the maneuver of his enemy. In a deception effort, maneuver must be well-thought out and have a specific purpose. If it is a hap-hazard effort, an enemy will quickly see through the deception. If this occurs, the deceptor could be become the deceptee (not doctrinal terms!). In terms of utilizing maneuver in deception, a commander has four primary techniques at his disposal. These are: feints, demonstrations, ruses, and displays. We will discuss each of these in detail later in the article.
- Rehearsals/Exercises. A smart, well-equipped opponent will strive to know what you are doing at all times. A wily commander can capitalize on this. In regards to deception, a commander can conduct rehearsals (particularly full-scale) and exercises to portray different things to his enemy. For instance, you may conduct a rehearsal on a type of operation you do not plan to conduct. Perhaps, this will plant a seed in your opponent and cause him to react or change his plan. Additionally, the time of rehearsals can also be utilized in deception. For example, many would conclude that the conduct of an offensive rehearsal would allude that an attack is imminent. However, if the attack does not come; doubt could enter the opponent’s mind. This doubt can be exploited in the future.
- Decoys. One of the most popular deception means at the tactical level is the use of decoys. In simplest terms, a decoy is something placed on the battlefield to draw the attention of your enemy. Decoys can be an item that is manufactured (for example a mock-up tank), something already existing on the battlefield that can adapted, or could be something you own such as an un serviceable vehicle (due to maintenance or combat loss). In regards to decoys, it is something you want the enemy to see. Consequently, it must fit into your overall deception story focused on a specific target. In order for a decoy to be effective there are certain principles you should follow. These include:
- Location– Decoys must be emplaced in locations that tactically make sense to the story you are trying to sell. Decoys placed in terrain that does not pass the common sense simply looks like a decoy! The decoys must also be tactically tied to the purposes and tasks of the units surrounding it.
- Movement– There must be movement tied to the decoy. Again, if there is no physical activity around the decoy; the decoy will look like a decoy to the enemy. Movement can be accomplished in several ways. These include:
- Having Soldiers move around near the decoy. Their movement should simulate activities appropriate to the decoy.
- Having logistical vehicles conduct actions associated with the decoy. Perhaps, send a fuel truck to replicate refueling operations. Maybe move an ammo truck next to the decoy to simulate ammo resupply.
- Signatures – A decoy should have additional visual signatures to aid in selling itself to the enemy. These signatures can take the form of a variety of things. These can include dug-in firing positions, smoke, dust signatures replicating movement, obstacles around the decoy, etc… As long as they are believable, they will assist you in selling the decoy.
- Camouflage. Most of us have been infatuated with camouflage since we were young kids. You remember the good old days of playing army out in the woods, rolling in the mud and sticking foliage all over yourself to blend in with the surroundings and then sneaking up on your buddy after he passed you by! Well, the use of camouflage in military deception has many of the same principles. Camouflage in deception can take the role of hiding your actions from your enemy. It can used to blend yourself into your surroundings. Or you may use it to disguise your strength and location from your opponent. There is one important thing you must remember when using camouflage – That is you must be consistent. If your unit has used camouflage in a particular way prior to your deception efforts; you must continue to utilize it that same way. If you stray from that; it is a red flag to your enemy that something may be going on.
- Smoke and Obscurants. Everyone has heard the old adage, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ Certainly, smoke quickly draws the attention of all. Smoke used well is clearly a combat multiplier. Smoke used poorly is a combat degrader. The use of smoke and obscurants in deception operations can be a tremendous asset. Its chief benefit lies in its ability to confuse. Hopefully, this confused state will occur in the enemy and not friendly forces. Below are some examples of utilizing smoke in deception:
- Properly used smoke is a great way to simulate damage. Simulated damage can take the form of vehicles (the old burning hulk in the desert) or perhaps even a location such as a logistical facility, bridge, section of railroad, power plant, etc…. When using smoke in this way you are trying to deceive the enemy as to your overall strength or the use of a location. With the simulated damage, you want the enemy to think you are weak causing him to not attack in a certain area or to send forces at a location.
- Obviously, the first thing you think of with smoke is its ability to conceal. In deception, a commander may use smoke to deceive his enemy as to strength, location, and/or maneuver.
- Smoke can be used to have your enemy focus in one direction while you maneuver in another.
- Earlier, we discussed the use of dummies and decoys. Smoke can greatly assist in their credibility. When using smoke in these situations it is critical it is used realistically.
- Logistical Activities. The more you can tie-in logistics actions with your deception the better. This can be achieved in numerous ways (many have been discussed previously). Below are some examples:
- Simulating activities such as refueling and rearming decoy or dummy locations.
- Portraying a logistical base that does not exist.
- Dropping barrier materials in locations to portray obstacles that will be constructed.
- Olfactory Indicators. Alright, here is an old school saying for you – Do you remember the old Fruit Loops commercials with Toucan Sam saying, “Follow your Nose” (that is way back!) ? Well, the use of olfactory methods (geared to the enemy’s sense of smell) can be effective. Of course, the crucial factor in this is the ability for the enemy to smell the deception efforts. In more sophisticated efforts this may mean the enemy must possess some specific technology to detect the smell. At the lower levels, it may simply mean the enemy is in close enough proximity to smell. When utilizing olfactory indicators, you would like to combine them in with other means. Below are some ways of using olfactory indicators:
- Smells linked to vehicles such as diesel fuel, oil and gasoline can assist in selling the use of decoys or in simulating movement.
- The cooking of food can portray that troops are in the area.
- Smells can also be utilized to infer the use of chemical agents. This was an effective technique in World War II. For those who have experienced it, there is nothing better to get your heart pumping than a chemical alarm going off!!
- Sonic Indicators. Similar to use of olfactory indicators is the use of sonic indicators in deception. Of course, when referring to sonic indicators we are focused on methods aimed at your opponent’s sense of hearing. If you can link up what your enemy hears to what he thinks he sees; your chances of success are greatly improved. Sonic indicators can be activities such as:
- Simulated vehicle movement played on speakers.
- Firing of weapons (real or simulated) that is appropriate to the tactical situation.