The Ekranoplan is a unique vessel that was deployed by the Soviet military during the Cold War. The Project 903 “Lun”, a version of the Ekranoplan which was used in operations on the Caspian Sea, has been moved to a new location on 31 July, where it will be on display to visitors.
The last of its type to “sail” the waters of the Caspian, the 380-ton “Lun” was abandoned after the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union at Kaspiysk naval base.
THE MOMENTOUS TASK OF MOVING THE ‘LUN’
It was a mammoth task moving the “Lun” nearly 100km up the coast from where it lay for the last three decades.
The move took 14 hours and required three tug boats and two escort vessels to deliver the “Lun” to its new home.
The “Lun” will be housed at a new military museum which is due to open in the Russian city of Derbent, in Dagestan.
The museum will be called Patriot Park. It will include a military museum and a theme park that will display a range of Soviet and Russian military equipment. Construction of the park is expected to start later this year.
THE EKRANOPLAN: A BLEND OF PLANE AND SHIP
The “Lun” is a type of ground-effect vehicle (GEV), which is also known as an Ekranoplan.
The Ekranoplan is a hybrid vehicle, a cross between an aircraft and a ship. It can move over water without actually touching it.
The International Maritime Organisation classifies Ekranoplans as ships, but in fact, they have unique high-speed capabilities, gained from skimming the surface of the water at a height of between one and five meters above the water.
HOW IT MOVES
Ekranoplans use an aerodynamic principle called “ground effect” to create motion. The Ekranoplan “flies” over the water using lift generated by the ground effect of its large wings when the vessel is about four metres above the surface of the water.
The “Lun” is longer than an Airbus A380 aircraft, but almost as tall. Despite its size and weight, the “Lun” was capable of reaching speeds of up to 550 kilometres per hour. This can be attributed to eight powerful turbofan engines that are located on its wings.
USES OF THE SOVIET EKRANOPLAN
The “Lun” was one of the last Ekranoplan models produced by the Soviet’s Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV) program.
The “Lun” is a ground effect vehicle (GEV) designed by Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeyev in 1975 and was used by the Soviet and Russian navies.
The Ekranoplan’s speed and stealth, due to its proximity to the surface of the water while moving, made it difficult to detect by radar. For this reason, the Ekranoplan was used by the Soviet military during the Cold War.
WHERE EKRANOPLANS WERE DEPLOYED
Ekranoplans were commonly utilised in operations on the Caspian Sea, a large inland sea located between the Soviet Union and Iran. Due to their awkward shape and size, Ekranoplans earned the nickname “Caspian Sea Monster” amongst locals.
The last of its kind to sail the waters of the Caspian Sea, the “Lun” was abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The “Lun” has been rusting away at the Kaspiysk naval base for around 30 years.
EKRANOPLANS MAKE A COMEBACK
While GEVs have not been produced for the past few decades, the concept is making a comeback.
Developers in Singapore, the United States (US), China and Russia are working on projects that aim to bring Ekranoplans back into operation, though not for military purposes.
WATCH THE LUN IN ACTION
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