Ekranoplan or Caspian Sea Monster is considered as a unique military technology wonder, representing Soviet defense science and technology.

Caspian Sea Monster review on Dung Tran military channel

Introduce

The Soviet defense industry had produced a variety of powerful weapons capable of seriously threatening American and allied forces. Expensive costs and constantly changing needs prevent them from entering mass production, but the technological achievements are still being inherited to develop more super weapons for the Russian army in the 21st century.

In 1967, when the US Army was using the Corona reconnaissance satellite to scan Soviet territory, they discovered something unusual. At first, when looking at the satellite image, they thought it was a giant plane, but soon they discovered that its wings were too short to fly. This strange vehicle had the flag of the Soviet Navy on the airframe, so what is it in essence? Perhaps it was a new design or some kind of amphibian vehicle.

Caspian Sea Monster
Caspian Sea Monster

Background

When the veil was revealed, with all the information we know, this was an experimental project developed in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, called experimental ground effect vehicle, ekranoplan, or KM, known colloquially as the Caspian Sea Monster.

The KM project was led by chief designer Rostislav Alexeyev and the lead engineer Vitaliy Efimov. Although it resembles an aircraft, but it was identified as a maritime ship and entered service in the Soviet Navy, but was operated by a test pilot of the Soviet Air Force.

The KM entered service in 1966, and was repeatedly tested by the Soviet Navy until 1980, when it was destroyed by accident during an experiment and sank in the Caspian Sea.

Ekranoplan is considered as a unique military technology wonder, representing Soviet defense science and technology. The Ekraoplan is one of the most unique flying vehicles ever developed. Not only for the purpose of transporting troops, this vehicle was also equipped with anti-ship missiles with tremendous destructive power.

The discovery of the Caspian Sea Monster during the height of the Cold War prompted the CIA to quickly form a special Task Force, and developed the Aqualine UAV, just to found out its purpose!

Caspian Sea Monster
Caspian Sea Monster

Design

The KM was notable for its massive size and payload, becoming the largest aircraft in the world when it was completed in 1966. The KM had a wingspan of 37.6 metres (123 ft); a length of 92 m (302 ft); a maximum take-off weight of 544 tons (1,199,315 lb); and was designed to fly at an altitude of 5–10 metres (16–33 ft) to use the ground effect. KM had a crew of 5, and could accommodate 50 people in the cabin.

Despite technically being an aircraft, it was considered to be closer to a boat. This was because of its Wing-in-ground-effect design, to fly several meters above surfaces, which allows for very efficient sustained high-speed flight. It can be operated on any large flat space, including ice. But with a monster over 500 tons, operating on the sea will be safer and easier.

The KM was also undetectable to many radar systems, as it flew below the minimum altitude of detection, and too high for sonar sensors to be able to detect and the torpedoes can’t do anything either.

Powerplant

KM was equipped with 10 Dobrynin VD-7 turbojet engines, producing 127.53 kN (28,670 lbf) thrust each.

In tests, this monster was able to reach a top speed of 500 km/h (310 mph), a cruise speed of 430 km/h (270 mph), a range of 1,500 km (930 mi).

Caspian Sea Monster
Caspian Sea Monster

Lun-class MD-160

Several models have been built based on the KM experimental project. Among the Ekranoplan family, the Lun-class MD-160 is the most famous, being used in the Soviet navy as well as the Russian navy from 1987 until the early 1990s.

Compared with the KM, Lun was smaller in size with a length of 73.8m (242 ft 2 in); wingspan of 44m (144 ft 4 in); the height was 19.2m (63 ft 0 in); the draft was 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in). The Empty weight was 286 tons (630,522 lb); the maximum take-off weight was 380 tons (837,757 lb); The crew consists of 15 people, including 6 officers.

Thanks to eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofans engines with a capacity of 127.4 kN each (28,600 lbf), this monster can travel at a maximum speed of 550 km/h (340 mph), cruise speed of 450 km/h (280 mph), a range of 2,000 km (1,200 mi).

Designed for anti-surface ship missions, Lun carried six P-270 Moskit supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, mounted in pairs on the dorsal surface of its fuselage with advanced tracking systems mounted in its nose and tail.

Each Moskit has a range of 120 km and carries a powerful explosive warhead weighing 300 kg. Moskits can reach a top speed of mach 3 and a cruiser speed of mach 2.2. The main goal of this weapon was the US carrier groups, three Moskits were enough to neutralize or even sank an aircraft carrier.

Subsidiary armament includes two 23mm Pl-23 cannon in a twin tail turret, and two 23mm Pl-23 cannon in a twin turret under forward missile tubes.

The MD-160 can approach its target at speeds far beyond conventional ships, while its cruise altitude was only 4 meters above sea level, making it nearly impossible to detect by the warship radar.

Lun-class MD-160
Lun-class MD-160

Legacy left

Like many other Soviet weapons projects, the expensive construction and operation cost kept the Lun-class ekranoplan from mass production and early disqualification. The Soviet Union planned to create 8 such Ekranoplan, but only one was completed. The MD-160, entered service with the Black Sea Fleet in 1987. It was retired in the late 1990s and sat unused at a naval station in Kaspiysk until 2020.

After a long waiting period, this vehicle was scheduled to move to Patriot Park for display. After arriving at Patriot Park, the Lun-class MD-160 will surely become the top wonder here.

The designers of the MD-160 have announced that they are developing a modern version of ekranoplan since 2015. On the basis of the “Caspian Sea Monster”, the Russian army is currently developing a new seaplane called the A-050 Chaika-2.

Thanks to the use of modern materials, the Chaika-2 weighs only 54 tons, although it can still accomodates 100 soldiers or 9 tons of cargo. Thanks to the new aircraft engines, Chaika will accelerate up to 450 km/h, service ceiling is 3,000 m. Not only gliding on water, it can work on almost any type of terrain, ice or plains, the range is up to 5,000 km.

Lun-class MD-160
Lun-class MD-160

It will also be armed with missiles, to protect the northern sea route as well as to patrol the Black and Caspian Seas, according to Russian Minister of Trade and Industry, Denis Manturov.

It is reported that Chaika-2 is proposed to be armed with BrahMos anti-ship missiles, turning it into a high-speed attack complex. The A-050 Chaika-2 is expected to enter service before 2022.

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