When the Soviet Union started developing their massive ekranoplan or “flying ship” dubbed ‘KM’ in the mid-1960s, the CIA was so scared that it developed a drone specifically to spy on the KM. Bewildered Western military experts dubbed it the “Caspian Sea Monster.” It was followed by the Lun-class ekranoplan outfitted with six Moskit anti-ship missiles. The Lun was deployed in 1987, and remained in service until the 1990s.
Russia’s CHDB working on a prototype
And now Russia has revived the once-shelved project. Ekranoplans or ground effect vehicles (GEVs) are vehicles that can be elevated above ground or water, but they are different from a hovercraft or aircraft. As a military aircraft, they can take off and land in water, eliminating the need for docks or runways. They can carry more cargo than a conventional aircraft of the same size, and their low cruising altitudes mean they are well below the range of most radars.
Russia’s Akekseyev Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau (CHDB) has started working on a prototype of an ekranoplan. CHDB’s chief designer Georgy Antsev told Sputnik News that work on the A-050 ekranoplan with a take-off weight of 50 tons was progressing well. Antsev said the company was in talks with several buyers, including foreign.
Russia may develop two types of ekranoplans
The CHDB recently displayed two concepts of ekranoplan at the MAKS air show. The first was a passenger transport vehicle, while the second one was a high-speed patrol craft with forward firing guns. Antsev said it was an ideal option for anti-piracy missions and coastal policing. Since they fly just above the water, Russia believes that ekranoplans would be invisible to radars. So, they could shell missiles before being spotted.
Antsev said the A-050 will feature modern avionics and navigation gear. It will have a take-off weight of 54 tons and load-carrying capacity of nine tons. Powered by R-195 booster engines, it will have a cruising speed of 250-300 miles per hour. The A-050’s effective range will be 3,000 miles. A high-ranking Russian naval officer said in July that the new GEV will be armed with cruise missiles.