Massive Soviet Ekranoplan Rises From The Caspian Sea

Gif: Ruptly

The Ekranoplan is one of the coolest machines designed to demonstrate the technological innovation of the Soviet Union. Part boat and part airplane, this massive machine kicked ass. And now an Ekranoplan is being pulled from the Caspian Sea in order to be part of a theme park attraction.

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Here’s a little history for those of you who need to get caught up:

Ekranoplans as a general idea weren’t originally intended for military use, but in the Soviet Union, the best way to gain funding was to demonstrate a new technology’s use in battle. Aside from being able to potentially carry nuclear missiles, Ekranoplans had other benefits. Because they don’t actually touch the water, it’s not detectable by active sonar and they don’t set off naval mines, but they didn’t fly high enough to be detected by radar at the time. It was the perfect middle group for covert transportation.

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The machines were eventually abandoned. They had a lot of problems that could probably have been solved with time, but a transfer of power meant that a new administration just wasn’t interested in continuing the work. Ekranoplans were abandoned. Literally. They just kind of left them where they sat and focused on something else.

Thankfully, the government has decided that these beefy crafts still have a purpose, and they pulled it across the Caspian Sea from the Kaspiysk naval base to Derbent in Russia—about a 62 mile journey.

From Robb Report:

The Lun was slowly shepherded along the shores of the Caspian Sea and pulled from the water in June by three tug boats and two escort vessels. No easy feat considering the superplane weighs 380 tons and has a 148-foot wingspan. The mammoth effort took a total of 14 hours and required the careful coordination of several vessels, along with the assistance of rubber pontoons.

The Ekranoplan is going to be the feature attraction in Patriot Park, a military theme park that’s supposed to expand in Derbent later this year. Until then, it’ll just chill on the beach like a giant mythical creature from the deep.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

Fantastic engineering by these things, especially considering the sheer size!

Still, one bit always bothers me: “but they didn’t fly high enough to be detected by radar at the time”

*Sighs* AIR SEARCH RADAR. They are still perfectly visible to surface search RADAR. It’s a persistent myth that continues to this day, mostly thanks to movies and tv, but it is just a myth. There is no such thing as “flying under the RADAR” in the sea. Jimbo’s Fishing Charter with a basic Furuno would have little trouble seeing this coming from miles out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯