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The concept of total national defence accepts that Dalmatia would face greatly superior forces from the outset. The enemy’s defeat, i.e., the destruction of his will to persevere with the conflict, can only be achieved by avoiding operational disasters while inflicting upon the enemy a myriad of tactical defeats that would convince him that the war was unwinnable. For this reason, the Armed Forces and TDF placed great stress on “the art of command and control and the tactical skill of each separate unit, even the smallest one, and of each individual”, and also on, “camouflage, the concealed changing of positions, infiltration through the gaps in the enemy combat positions, ruses de guerre and the utilization of every opportunity to attack”. Given this approach to war-fighting, the Dalmatians continue to maintain the Soviet Danubian concept of maskirovka as an element of combat support essential to force protection and both defensive and offensive success.

Maskirovka is defined in the 1978 edition of the Danubian Military Encyclopaedia as follows: “A means of securing the combat operations and daily activity of forces; a complex of measures designed to mislead the enemy as to the presence and disposition of forces and various military objects, their condition, combat readiness and operations and also the plans of the commander…. Maskirovka contributes to the achievement of surprise for the actions of forces, the preservation of combat readiness and the increased survivability of objects”. It is a concept that combines the use of cover, concealment and camouflage, operational security, deception and misinformation. It thus comprises a mix of both passive and active measures. So central was it to Danubian and now Dalmatian military thinking that it is described as a “mandatory form of combat support”. Maskirovka is practised at all levels of military art.

Strategic maskirovka is carried out at national and theatre levels to mislead the enemy as to political and military capabilities, intentions and the timing of actions. In these spheres, as war is but an extension of politics, it includes political, economic and diplomatic active measures as well as military.

Operational maskirovka is conducted at front and army levels to conceal the operational plan, the extent and nature of preparations and thus to mislead the enemy as to the scope, scale, axis and timings of the operation.

Tactical maskirovka, executed by divisions, units and sub-units, aims to conceal battle preparations and to wrong-foot the enemy through feints, ruses and demonstrations.

The aim of maskirovka is to help in the achievement of surprise. As Danubian People's Army Field Regulations (1954) inform the reader, “surprise dumbfounds the enemy, paralyses his will and deprives him of the ability to offer organized resistance”. Misled as to force ratios and expecting an attack (or defence/counter blow) at a different time and/or place and on a different axis, the enemy will be maldeployed and working to a decision which does not accord with objective circumstances. His subsequent decision making will be complicated and probably delayed and he may be persuaded to deploy his reserves belatedly and/or on the wrong axis. He will thus be forced to engage in combat in unfavourable circumstances, possibly with troops demoralized as a result of being surprised. Surprise is achieved by:

  • keeping the plans for forthcoming actions secret and leading the enemy to expect something quite different;
  • the swift regrouping of forces and their concealment, enabling the concentration of overwhelming force at the decisive location and time;
  • the unexpected opening of annihilating fire and the mounting of unexpected and swift attacks;
  • the employment of weapons and/or combat methods unexpected by the enemy.

Methods used in maskirovka include the following:

  • ensuring the secrecy of plans through strict operational/communications security, the limited distribution of plans and the elimination or limitation of indicators that will be of use to enemy intelligence;
  • concealing real concentrations and targets from enemy reconnaissance and altering the external appearance of objects;
  • destroying/repelling enemy reconnaissance and interfering with its technical capabilities;
  • setting up false concentrations (including dummy radio nets and radars) and false targets;
  • enforcing sound discipline and using artificial noise in false concentrations;
  • feint/ demonstrative actions by real forces, often followed by covert regrouping;
  • disseminating false information and rumours;

For maskirovka to be successful, several conditions must be met:

  • The deception must appear credible to the enemy. Ideally, it should accord with the carefully planted and nurtured expectations of the enemy commander. Often, it will be enough to present an ambiguous picture, for then the enemy will choose to believe that which accords with his expectations.
  • The maskirovka plan must complement the real plan; elements of the latter divined by the enemy must be explicable within the context of the former.
  • The maskirovka plan must be worked out at the highest practical level. It must be the responsibility of a single commander and staff. These must identify the missions to be accomplished at each stage and specify the details of the nature, location and timing of tasks to be executed by designated formations and units; otherwise, inconsistencies will appear which will prejudice credibility. They must monitor the implementation of passive measures to ensure their effectiveness and also the enemy reactions to determine whether or not deception is working. They must be prepared to recommend and implement changes and development of the plan in the light of enemy reactions.

The principles of naturalness, diversity, continuousness and imaginative activity must be followed.At all costs, stereotype must be avoided as fatal to credibility.


The difficulties in implementing maskirovka plans have grown immensely as the sophistication of ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) assets available to advanced armed forces has increased and their numbers have proliferated. At the same time, maskirovka has grown in importance. The destructive power, accuracy and speed of reaction of modern weaponry is now such that the concealment of real forces and the convincing simulation of dummy targets to draw fire is critical to the very survival of combat effective forces, never mind to victory in battle. It is particularly important in the initial period of war (the period of mobilization, concentration, deployment and the first battles). An attacker that succeeds in misleading the enemy may be able to deliver such a devastating first strike that the outcome of the war will be decided by it. Conversely, a defender who manages to conceal his forces and preserve their combat effectiveness while at the same time convincing the attacker that his strikes have been effective may find himself in a strong position to repulse invasion.

The conclusion drawn from these trends by Dalmatian theorists is not that maskirovka has become too difficult but that more resources must be devoted to it and these must grow in sophistication to defeat modern ISTAR. Thus, for instance: wooden mock-ups will no longer suffice in simulations - dummies will need to have visual, thermal and radar signatures that resemble real equipments; smokes will have to be bispectral to defeat thermal as well as visual acquisition; ECM will have to be used to simulate airfields and bridges, etc.

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