Russia's Caspian Sea Monster-Lun Ekranoplan Aircraft
When the CIA discovered that the Soviet Union was developing a new type of aircraft in 1964, there was a panic within the agency to find out more about it. They even devoted a satellite to spy on it in 1965. The mystery centered on the Caspian Sea where the testing occurred. The CIA codenamed the aircraft as the Caspian Sea Monster with eight jet engines!
Aircraft was the size of two Boeing 747’s and weighed 544 tons and capable of flying 267 mph, but could be as fast as 460 mph. The aircraft was a jet-like aircraft that was part boat and hovercraft and required no land. It landed and took from water and flew just 15 ft. above the water making radar detection nearly impossible. It could also carry 900 troops. It first flew in 1966 and from then on, the prototypes flew until 1980, when a crash sank the last one.
But, that did not end the project. As the 1980’s heated up, so did the interest in this type of aircraft hovercraft, and a new version called “Lun” started. It basically modernized the former and it entered service in 1987 flying in the Black Sea. Its designation was MD-160.
The Lun used eight jet turbofans that allowed it to land and take off from water and a cruising speed of 340 mph. This version was armed with six potent P-270 Mosquito guided missiles for anti-surface warfare. It weighed 286 tons and had a range of 1200 miles and had a crew of 15. It could carry 100 tons. Like the former, it was a HUGE, strange, looking aircraft.
Only one was ever built and flew until around 1995. It now sits rusting away at Kaspiysk.
In 2015, the latest version is now being developed. It is an even more modernized MD-160. This time, its design is geared towards more anti-piracy and passenger models. Several buyers are lined up. As it proved, the aircraft design is sound. The new version, A-050, will have a take off weight of 54 tons and can carry nine tons. Its engines will produce a cruising speed of 300 mph and have a range of 3000 miles. The military version will be armed with cruise missiles and forward firing guns. Its appearance is very similar to the MD-160, except somewhat smaller.
The Russian design remains remarkable, but are other platforms better? What would make it truly great is if it could land on the ground (is has no landing gear).