Powered by 228,800 Lb-Ft of thrust, this Lun-class Ekranoplan was designed to carry two-million pounds of Europe-invading soldiers and vehicles and six nuclear missiles at speeds up to 340 MPH. Thank God Reagan defeated the Soviet Union.
At 240 feet long, the Lun-class is also one of the largest aircraft ever made, rivaling even Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose. The thing is, it's not really a plane, it's a ground effect vehicle. Ground effect vehicles essentially ride on a cushion of air created by the interaction of the wings and the surface they're passing over. This ground effect can be exploited to a height typically equalling the length of the wings. Because drag created by lift is reduced, ground effect vehicles can be up to twice as efficient as their high-flying counterparts, they can also carry up to twice the payload.
There are disadvantages to the design however. The plane can't risk turning sharply as banking could dig one of the wings into the water, resulting in a crash. They also face difficulties during take off since the ground effect doesn't kick in till they're off the water. The Lun-class can only takeoff facing into the wind and places its eight turbofan engines in front of the wings to maximize lift. Some of the engines shut down during steady flight. Because the Ekranoplan can't turn to avoid obstacles, it relies on spotting boats or other obstructions while they're a ways off, then lifting to a higher altitude to clear them. The Lun-class can operate in ground effect at heights up to 140 feet.
While Ekranoplans clearly don't have to worry about underwater mines or torpedoes, their lack of maneuverability and huge size make them sitting ducks to attack from the air. The Lun-class was fitted with a tail gun, but would likely require fighter support too.
The Lun-class was also fitted with six missile tubes designed to fire the nuclear-capable P-270 Moskit surface-to-surface cruise missile.
Because the Lun was primarily designed to land invading troops on European shores, it was developed in secret starting in the early 1970s. Work on this, the only completed example, began in 1983 and was completed in 1987. It served in the Soviet Black Sea fleet, charged with operating in both the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. NATO first learned of the vehicle's existence when spy planes spotted it testing.
These photos were taken at a formal naval base in Kaspiysk, Russia, on the west coast of the Caspian sea, where the Ekranoplan lies derelict.
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