In the history of unusual aircraft Russia has produced more than its fair share but the Ekranoplan or Caspian Sea Monster is the king of unusual aircraft and it wasn’t just an experimental aircraft, this incredible feet of engineering actually took to the air, albeit 4 meters into the air.
Looking much like a sea plane of yesteryear the Ekranoplan is part of an interesting breed of plane that make use of a phenomenon called Ground Effect to achieve incredible lift and efficiency. These types of aircraft are technically classed as marine vessels and umbrellaed under the name Ground Effect Vehicles (GEV).
Aircraft pilots and designers noted many years ago that when you fly very close to the ground the amount of drag produced drops off significantly and the amount of lift produced by wings is at its highest at these low altitudes, generally between 4 and 10 meters off the ground, many describe it as if it feels like you were riding on a cushion of air. These very interesting characteristics have led many designers to produce ground effect vehicles, the Ekranoplan being the most spectacular.
Spotted by the Americans in the 60’s while docked at a Russian port on the Caspian Sea it was quickly dubbed the Caspian Sea monster by US military analysts trying to figure out what the hell it is they had discovered with their high-altitude cameras. The Ekranoplan caused such a stir that the US military created a new class of unmanned spy plane to gather more information.
A number of variants of the Ekranoplan were produced by the Russians starting in 1966 with the KM variant. At 297 feet long the name monster was not misplaced. Capable of carrying a payload of 600 tons nearly 600kph while flying just 4 meters above the water the KM class was a formidable war machine. The Lun class was slightly smaller at 240 feet long but carried 6 anti-ship missiles making it a dangerous adversary to the American Navy. The Lun could fly low and fast quickly sneaking up on US fleets to deliver its deadly payload of Mach 3 P-270 Moskit anti-ship missiles. Today the Lun is the only remaining example Ekranoplan, parked at a dock in Kaspiysk, Dagestan.
As with many of Russia’s most radical designs the Ekranoplan was mothballed in the 1980’s and has since become the stuff of legends. Untested in battle and left to rust in a far away port all we have left to prove that this incredible tale was real are a collection of stunning videos. So presented for your viewing pleasure are the best videos capturing the Ekranoplan in action, flying feet above the see with engines at full thrust.