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Rockntractor
02-01-2010, 02:25 AM
The Ekranoplan flies within surface effect which means it cruises on an air cushion just above the surface of the water at about 10-30 feet. Although capable of high speed, they can not fly as conventional aircraft do, hence the abbreviated wings.
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Small numbers of experimental vehicles were built in Scandinavia just before WW2. By the 1960s, the technology started to improve, in large part due to the contributions of the Russian Rostislav Alexeev and the German Alexander Lippisch. They independently worked on GEV technology arriving to very different solutions. Alexeev worked from his background as a ship designer whereas Lippisch worked from his own background as an aeronautical engineer. The influence of Alexeev and Lippisch is still noticeable in most GEV vehicles seen today.
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The Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau (CHDB), led by Alexeev, was the center of ground-effect craft development in Russia. The military potential for such a craft was soon recognised and Alexeev received support and financial resources from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. This led to the development of the Caspian Sea Monster, a 550 ton military
ekranoplan
. Before it, some manned and unmanned prototypes were built, ranging up to eight tons in displacement.
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The Russian ekranoplan program continued and led to the most successful ekranoplan so far, the 125 ton A-90 Orlyonok. A few Orlyonoks were in service with the Soviet Navy from 1979 to 1992. In 1987, the 400 ton Lun-class ekranoplan was built as a missile launcher. The second Lun was renamed to
Spasatel
, as a rescue vessel, but was never finished.
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