The Soviet VTOL Ekranoplan Bomber Designed by an Italian Communist

Learning about Russian military vehicles certainly raises one’s threshold for weird engineering. But when you come across the Bartini Beriev VVA–14, a forty-year-old VTOL seaplane-ekranoplan, everything goes all WTF again.

While sufficient engineering ignorance can make perfectly rational military hardware indistinguishable from regular trips on hallucinogenic substances, the VVA-14 is


still a handful to take in all at once. But like all military vehicles, it makes sense.

The problem was the UGM–27 Polaris, the United States’s submarine-launched nuclear missile, and the man to attempt a solution was Robert Bartini, an Italian Communist who emigrated to the Soviet Union to study aviation engineering after Mussolini’s fascists took over Italy in 1922.

Working with the Beriev aircraft design company, the result was the VVA-14. It could take off vertically and either fly just above the surface as an ekranoplan or at proper altitude as a regular plane, carrying a serious load of bombs and torpedoes. Actually, make that could have: the project never really came together and died with Bartini in 1974.


One dismantled example survives at a Moscow air museum where it lurks without its engines or its wings, looking like a serious hunched sci-fi plane and making all you fans of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater out there say a-ha!


Photo Credit: Test Pilot, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, English Russia

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