Photo Emerges Of Ukrainian MiG-29 Equipped With ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoys

An image of a Ukrainian MiG-29 equipped with two ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoys (Unknown author via X). In the box: MALD in flight. (Photo: Raytheon)

The decoys were delivered to Ukraine last year and employed during multiple attacks, but the launching platform had not been disclosed until now.

For the first time in over a year, a Ukrainian MiG-29 was photographed with U.S.-made ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoys under its wings. The photo, recently emerged on X, shows a Fulcrum assigned to the 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade during a low pass, with the decoys clearly visible on the inner pylons.

The delivery of MALD to Ukraine was not announced, however images of its debris, found near the buildings hit by missile strikes in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region in May 2023, quickly started circulating on social media. At that time, it wasn’t clear which was the launching platform, although we mentioned the possibility of it being MiG-29s and Su-27s, since it weighs less than 300 lb.

In that occasion, it seemed that the US-made decoys were possibly drawing away the Russian air defenses’ attention from Storm Shadow missiles that were used to strike the targeted buildings. The circumstances during which the photo of the MiG-29 equipped with MALD was taken are not known.

The Miniature Air Launched Decoy

The ADM-160B Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) is a low-cost, expendable, air-launched, programmable decoy munition that can replicate the flight profiles and signatures of aircraft and weapons, drawing away the attention from them while confusing enemy integrated air defense systems.

The remains found in Ukraine last year clearly identified the decoys as the older ADM-160B, which is missing the datalink and decoy of the latest ADM-160C version now operated by the US. It is not known how sensitive the technology aboard the older MALD is or if it has been altered, however it seems that the US deemed it was worth the risk of Russia recovering such technology.

MALD has a stated range of around 500 miles, making it essentially a small cruise missile. The decoy can reportedly reproduce the radar signature of different aircraft while flying a preprogrammed route, with the newer ADM-160C variant also able to jam enemy radars.

Initially developed in 1995, MALD is intended to stimulate and confuse enemy air defenses during the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions. One of the main components is the Signature Augmentation Subsystem (SAS), which uses radar enhancers to mimic different aircraft.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.