In air or missile combat operations, the following are examples of lawful ruses of war:
(a) Mock operations.
(c) False military codes and false electronic, optical or acoustic means to deceive the enemy (provided that they do not consist of distress signals, do not include protected codes, and do not convey the wrong impression of surrender).
(d) Use of decoys and dummy-construction of aircraft and hangars.
(e) Use of camouflage.
- The examples are based on Art. 37 (2) of AP/I. See also Para. 12.1.1. of NWP.
- Rule 116 applies also in non-international armed conflict.
- Art. 37 (2) of AP/I, see fn. 641.
- Para. 12.1.1 of NWP: “Stratagems and ruses of war permitted in armed conflict include such deceptions as camouflage; deceptive lightning; dummy ships and other armament; decoys; simulated forces; feigned attacks and withdrawals; ambushes; false intelligence information; electronic deceptions; and utilization of enemy codes, passwords and countersigns.”
- Mock operations, as lawful ruses of war, are illustrated by feint attacks leading the enemy to believe that a heavy attack would be delivered against a particular target and thereby inducing it to commit its forces to the defence of that target, while the main blow is delivered at another target which has been left more thinly defended.
- An example from history is the Allied air attacks on targets in the Pas de Calais area during the weeks preceding D-Day in 1944. The air attacks convinced Nazi Germany that the invasion would come in that area, and not in Normandy.
- Another example is that of moving an aircraft carrier to a particular area, in order to make the enemy believe that an air strike will be delivered from the air carrier. In fact, the main target of the attack may be located in an area beyond the flight capability of the carrier’s aircraft.
- Simulated attacks may also be used as lawful ruses of war to entice the enemy to activate its air defence systems, thus providing valuable information about those systems that can be used to facilitate a real attack later. While this is different from mock operations in the classic sense, it has a common element in that it presents the enemy with a false appearance of what is actually going on, thereby lawfully gaining a military advantage.
- Disinformation consists of information that is either false or which is designed to lead the enemy to draw incorrect conclusions. Misinformation is mentioned in Art. 37 (2) of AP/I as a lawful ruse of war. Misinformation is a wider term, including information that is incorrect objectively, whereas disinformation is confined to the situation where only the person conveying it is aware of the fact that the information is false. Even disinformation, which is obviously based on deception, is a lawful ruse of war.
- An example of use of disinformation is an attempt to induce the enemy to surrender by creating the false impression that it is surrounded, or that massive air attacks are impending whereas no such attack is planned, or even feasible. An historical example relates to WWII. When Belligerent Parties captured enemy aircraft, they gave them the proper new nationality markings, yet employed them in such a manner that the enemy was misled to consider them friendly military aircraft because of their silhouette. In such cases, the captured aircraft were used to great advantage by mixing them with enemy night bombers returning to base from bombing missions, and attacking the enemy airbases that were lit up in order to receive the returning bombers.
- False information that suggests civilian, neutral or other protected status is not lawful (see Rule 114).
- Art. 37 (2) of AP/I, see fn. 641.
- The use of false military codes and false electronic, optical or acoustic means to deceive the enemy can be seen as a special case of lawful disinformation.
- An example might be the use of the enemy’s IFF codes when responding to an IFF interrogation (see Commentary on Rule 40 (f)), thus falsely indicating friendly status as seen from the enemy’s perspective. Such false response is not to be equated to wearing enemy uniform (which is prohibited, see Rule 112 (c)). The correct analogy would be that of a patrol (which is a lawful ruse of war) using the enemy’s password to avoid being fired upon when summoned by an enemy sentry.
- Another example of a lawful ruse of war consists of a Belligerent Party’s creating false return on enemy radar, giving the impression of a large formation of approaching aircraft, thus confusing enemy defences. This was done during WWII by dropping aluminium strips (“windows”), and is today done by electronic means.
- Unmanned decoys may be used to simulate manned military aircraft by creating an unusually large radar return or in other ways simulating a larger aircraft.
- Missile decoys may be used to mislead anti-missile defences. Due to their velocity, they can create destruction when they hit the ground, although they do not contain warheads with explosives.
- Dummy construction was used during WWII by Belligerents Parties, in order to simulate objects such as military installations, parked military aircraft or tanks.
- Dummy construction that is intended to attract attacks from the enemy must, to the extent feasible, not be located within or near densely populated areas (see Rule 42).
- It is permissible to paint military aircraft with camouflage colours, as long as the military markings of the aircraft are there, even though their visibility is impaired (see paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Commentary on Rule 114 (b) as well as paragraph 14 of the Commentary on Rule 11 (x)).
- Use of camouflage includes the reduction of electronic, acoustic or infrared signature of a military aircraft, in order to make it “invisible” or “inaudible” to other sensors than the human eye.
- It has not been considered unlawful to camouflage ground installations at military airfields, like hangars and workshops, to look like unspecified civilian buildings.