Two wartime spring evenings in mid-May 1999, model Russian S-300 anti-aircraft systems were paraded up and down the streets of Belgrade. The fake missile launchers were modeled out of old barrels and mounted on heavy tank carriers, and most of the life in the city took place from dusk to dawn anyway. During the night, people “awaited” the NATO missiles, and NATO spies weren’t sleeping either. We put on the parade for their eyes.

This is Colonel Dragomir Krstović’s recollection of the days amid the NATO aggression on our country. Then-commander of the Yugoslav Army’s Strategic Masking Unit, Krstović led a unit consisting of about 50 men, who were, according to the people who knew them, “probably the smartest Yugoslav Army troops” during the aggression. In Krstović’s memory, the troops counted with 10 university professor and at least 11 assistant professors. The rest included electronics engineers and design “artists”. Their wartime mission was to create as many true-to-life models of expensive weaponry and military equipment as possible, as “it turned out that NATO isn’t too discerning from above”.

“When the fire ceased, we determined that NATO had fired around 24,000 guided missiles on 785 expertly crafted fakes. With the prices back then, that would have cost them about 600 million marks. Of course, we weren’t trying to outwit them for the money, our objective was to save the lives of our men,” remembers Colonel Krstović.

Krstović, who is a mechanical engineer, clarified that the Yugoslav Army’s experiences in resisting NATO advances post-1999 have gone on to be studied at many military academies around the world.

“With the current conflict in Ukraine, the public is mostly kept up to date on missile strikes from both sides. The effects of the actions are unknown and will depend on how successfully either side applied our methods. Back then, in our case, it turned out that NATO had deployed around 3,000 explosives and missiles per unit and they hit all targets in the barracks with precision, but they had virtually no success with movable targets. They missed around 95% of strikes, and about 70% of their ordnance was fired at the fake targets,” Krstović explains.

Circling back around to the story about the fake S-300 parade in Belgrade, Krstović recalls that this, in hindsight, successful “charade”, barely won the approval of the 1st Army’s commander. The barrel S-300 parade took a route from the Autokomanda, past the Belgrade Fair, across Vidikovac, Rakovica, to the base in Banjica. The Colonel explains that deliveries of real S-300 missile systems were being talked about constantly in this period. He also reveals that the unit’s original idea was to put on a show of transporting the “fakes” from one of the neighboring borders towards the interior of the country.

“There were 785 models made during the NATO aggression, 373 of which went to the 1st Army, 331 to the 3rd Army, and 81 models were allocated to the Air Force and Air Defence. 51 soldiers from the Overhaul Support Battalion built the models, and the designs were provided by the experts from the Electronics Industry Niš, Teleoptika, Krušik, the Utva factory… It was important that in addition to visual resemblance, all fake systems be able to “mimic” the radiation signatures of the real tools and weapons, since the opponent wasn’t quite that much technologically lacking.”

Krstović recalls that in 2001, General McMaster, then-National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, revealed that “the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999 was unsuccessful, as fewer than 5% of Serb combat systems were destroyed during the 78 days of air assault”.


During the NATO aggression, our electronics technicians were able to build a device to interfere with GPS signal, which was able to intercept cruise missiles.

“The ‘Omega’ GPS interference system was build by the Imtel Institute, whose team was led by Professor Aleksa Zejak, PhD. He intercepted the signal of GPS-guided cruise missiles, in a range of 22 to 33 kilometers. The system can be used from the ground or from the air,” explains Colonel Krstović.


“We could not receive weapons from Russia at all, but we could make our own,” Krstović laughs, recalling that they also built fake “Smerch” multiple rocket launchers.