Posts Tagged ‘ekranoplan’

The Soviet Ekranoplan and WIG

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Soviet Ekranoplan

The Cold War was the catalyst for the development of a diversity of interesting vehicles, platforms and technologies, but few have been of more interesting to me than the Soviet “Lun” ekranoplan pictured above and below. The Soviet Union began developing the ground effect technology in the 1930’s, but the craft reached a pinnacle of sorts in the 1980’s with the Lun (one of which can be seen at ), though WIG craft have yet to reach any broad application, whether military or commercial. benefit from WIG in two important ways, the first being the ability to achieve incredibly high speeds and the second that flying at 10 to 50 feet above the surface makes them largely undetectable by radar.

WIG works as a high pressure region develops beneath the wing’s lower surface and above the water surface, which enhances its lift compared to a conventional wing in free air. The close proximity of the water also disrupts the formation of wing-tip vortices, which are a major cause of induced drag on conventional wings in free air. To benefit from WIG, the airfoil must have a relatively flat lower surface in order to increase lift. WIG craft have an advantage over water-bourne craft in that a huge amount of power is needed to overcome the drag of the water. By flying just above the water that power can be used for speed and carrying capacity.

Ekranoplans were developed in a range of sizes and applications, but they could reach enormous proportions and cargo carrying capacity. The Lun, among the largest to be developed, spanned 240 feet long with a wingspan of 144 feet. Its size would be comparable to a . It had a maximum takeoff weight of 882,000 pounds and a range of over 1,800 miles. This behemoth could cruise at 341 mph, leaving traditional naval vessels quickly in its wake.

Several nations, including Russia and the United States, continue to explore the potential of WIG (like the ), and appears to have an active WIG program, but to date none have pushed this technology to the limit as Soviet designers and engineers did towards the end of the Cold War.

Soviet Ekranoplan at rest

A Soviet Lun Ekranoplan transport at rest with crew on the exterior giving an idea of the size of the craft.

Video showing a range of Ekranoplans in action: