The Soviets Had Big Plans For This Enormous Nuclear Equipped Ekranoplane


Photo: Igor 113

In the thick of the Cold War, the Soviet Union built an immense vessel to carry their troops across the seas and into Western Europe.Equipped with nuclear warheads and able to blast across the sea at 340 mph, the Lun-class Ekranoplane; part plane, part boat, and part hovercraft — is a Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV).

A GEV takes advantage of an aeronautical effect that allows it to lift off with an immense amount of weight, but limits its flight to 16 feet above the waves. Its altitude can never be greater than the length of the wings.

Think of a large seabird, like a pelican, cruising inches from the water and not needing to flap its wings.

The only complete Ekranoplane now sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

While there is talk of refitting the Lun-class and getting the GEV back in the fleet, it’s now rusting away, and was spotted by aviation blogger Igor113 who posted these pictures to his blog.

The Lun-class Ekranoplane was used by the Soviet Navy from 1987 to the late 1990s

Nearly 243 feet long, almost as big as the Spruce Goose, the Lun is a ground effect aircraft that can only fly near the surface of the sea

Eight turbofans producing 28,600 pounds of thrust apiece are mounted at the nose of the aircraft

It was built for anti-surface warfare in case of a European invasion or an unexpected attack from NATO forces

The vessel carried six P-270 Moskit guided missiles armed with nuclear warheads

The missiles were mounted in pairs on the top of its hull

In its nose and tail are concealing the most cutting edge tracking systems and radar of the day

Another version of the Lun was slated to be a field hospital — able to rush to any coast

But funding for the medical version dried and the Spasatel was never built

In 2007, the Russian defence Minister announced the country would resume production of this model Ekranoplane

This Soviet version Ground Effect Vehicle is the first to use turbojet power and the first to be operated successfully

The Lun would never have been able to fly any higher than the length of its wings

The Lun can carry 15 officers, flying 340 mph about 1,240 miles, but only ever reach an altitude of 16ft

The effect that allows the huge Ekranoplane to skim the surface of the water can be seen in low flying seabirds that glide above the sea without needing to flap their wings

Ground Effect Vehicles are twice as efficient as traditional aeroplanes and can carry twice as much

Two-million pounds of Soviet might barreling around at 340 mph.

There was also an anti-submarine variant fitted with six anti-ship missile launchers across the top of the fuselage

The Ekranoplane can carry hundreds of tons of cargo and troops, allowing for a potential European invasion

The Lun can't bank sharply or it will risk tipping over, and it can only take off into the wind

Though it has a tail gunner, the Lun would likely require fighter support as well

Though it can avoid mines and torpedoes, the huge Lun is vulnerable from the air

Developed in the early 1970s and constructed between 1983 and 1987 the Lun operated in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean before being spotted by NATO spyplanes

This is the only complete example and sits in Kaspiysk, Russia on the coast of the Caspian Sea

Today's state-of-the-art weapons are even more complicated than the Ekranoplane

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.