Wednesday Aircraft Porn: The Ekranoplan

Happy Wednesday (evening), I thought I’d post these awesome pictures of the Soviet Union’s Lun-class Ekranoplan rotting in a shipyard in the Russian town of Kaspisk on the Caspian Sea. Seeing the vessel laid up like this feels like I’m looking at some some sci-fi tale documenting the remains of what was once a technologically advanced empire…oh wait.

The 240-foot long Lun-class vessels were designed to skim just over the surface of the sea at up to 340-miles per-hour while carrying six, P-270 Moskit guided missiles meant to take out NATO ships.  Rumor has it that Russia may try to put the aircraft back into production.

These pics have been out there for a while but a friend reminded me of them today and they’re still fun.

Click below for some of the best images and a link to the collection.

For more, go here.

53 Comments on "Wednesday Aircraft Porn: The Ekranoplan"

  1. I would imagine the reason why Russia would consider building something like this, is because they have no confidence in their ability to build a heavy stealth bomber, which would be wildly more effective and useful than this nearly single purpose aircraft.

  2. amazing…that thing is massive. love the 1950's esque styling on it.

  3. Oh like that won't show up on radar. never mind advanced SAMs, you could take that out with a bow and arrow

  4. It looks ugly.

  5. It's not meant as an alternative to planes but as a naval vessel. Imagine a missile boat, or a transport, cruising at 300 knots.

  6. I remember an episode of Wings featuring this plane. Pretty remarkable I say.

  7. The Russians sometimes go all out in "applied military science" and this is an excellent example. Can't you just see this playing merry hell in the Baltic…..

  8. They are on the F'jord map of World in Conflict.
    just sayin

  9. Rebuild with todays Tech & you have a super Cargo skimmer to service Hawaii, Fiji, Caribbean, Seychelles, Phillppines, Java, Micronesia alone aside runs from CA to Baja Mex, or TX to Cancun Mex, Awesome. Renovate this plane type for Cargo use & passengers, say 100.
    Ro RO mode for cars to acess.

  10. I remember about twenty years ago they had a story on the news about the plane. The Soviets allowed the camera crew to see it, but not the bottom which was "top secret".
    Not so secret now……
    It would be interesting to see a smaller version used for transporting people/cars/cargo between islands. In a place like Indonesia it could revolutionize travel and commerce.
    The only place you would have to worry about reefs would be where you "landed". Unlike a regular ferry…..
    Plus it would be a bit faster.

  11. Doppler radar would be the doom of these, just as it was for f111, b1 and b52.

  12. Well folks…..send a bu8nch of geese to its path & slash goes Ekronolan ! Waste !

  13. What in the world… I have never heard of this thing. So you could imagine my reaction upon seeing the images posted…man this is just ridiculous!

  14. Put a mechanic droid on top of that and it can look like footage of a spacecraft from a Star Wars movie.

  15. Does that thing actually fly!? It looks like the lift:weight ratio would be too low to let it get off the ground.

  16. I think the real utility of the ekranoplan concept would be in cargo, not patrol/anti-ship duty. Boeing (IIRC) had a concept a few years back for a truly mahoosive ekranoplan type craft that could carry something like 10 M1 Abrams MBT's + a couple companies of infantry and gear on board at 200-300 knots for several thousand miles (I distinctly recall that it was more than capable of a transatlantic crossing). Don't think it ever really went anywhere though.

  17. Hmm, I wonder if they want to bring it back just to sell it to Iran. They'd buy it. Russia needs money and Iran likes to flex muscle. At least, that's what I would do if I was Russia.

    Does anybody know of a real small version of this? Like a personal boat? Just curious.

    To Oppervlakkig – thanks for the link!!

  18. Letsallbefriends | September 28, 2011 at 3:36 am | Reply

    I think rough seas were this beast’s main problem – 20 foot waves are not that unusual & weather changes fast. Then there are the giant squid…

  19. Wikipedia had a link to this site with some pictures of it in flight.
    http://www.se-technology.com/wig/html/main.php?op

  20. It flies… just above the ground it what we engineers term ground effect…

  21. I wouldn't want to be in it on an actual mission – short life expectency.
    This thing will be seen long before it got into range to fire it's missiles.

  22. I heard you can buy one of these suckers

  23. The thing looks like something from "The Thunderbirds" (my favorite show as a kid).
    Could star in a Bond movie too.
    Some Russian tycoon ought to resurrect it as a megayacht.

  24. Somebody needs to buy this thing, restore it and put in on display in an aviation museum somewhere or get it back into flying shape and offer rides in it at air shows.

  25. Sad to see it rotting. It would make a cool exhibit at some U.S. theme park. :-)

    (Maybe at OKS – the Oshkosh airport.)

  26. I rather doubt they'll ever built more. Supposedly the aircraft didn't work in rough seas. Still a damn cool concept though.

  27. Hell i love this it looks like it would bring fear into the hearts of its enemies!

  28. Looks neat.

  29. I would not want to be the poor sucker trying to keep this slug operational for the mother country. All the salt spray ingesting into the engines… maintenance hours vs. operational minutes.

  30. Nerdrage- reminded me of this immediately: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Amphibious_Interst

  31. The vectored exhaust would massively increase airflow over the wings, which in turn would create much more lift than normal.

  32. I think the majority of people are missing the point. This was an aircraft that exploit a condition WIG or Wing In Ground effect. The vehicle could achieve extraordinary speeds only a few feet off of the white caps. The soviets built these for the exact purpose of quick strike during a time when missile ranges were long and radars for things less than 25-50 off the water were not so much. With the alternate roll breach bearing straights in a quick way to get troops on the ground and protect advancing fleets with an unknown shooter loitering on the outskirts of a fleets protection zone.

  33. "This thing could potentially chase down a bomber and take it out. It certainly looks like an ugly betty with little/no use, but if properly employed and equipped it could be a contender. All hypothetical of course because I highly doubt a design like this would ever become operational (again)."____Matt, you got the points rightly. Newly designed and properly equiped Ekranoplan could be pretty userful. They can equip new "monster" with:__- Big-Aperture AESA radar__- Decent SAM of short – to – medium range with its own radar like a naval variant of the modern SA-22 mobile SAM which is able to shooting at moving . __- For offensive capabilities they could add tube launchers with modern SS-N-27 supersonic AShCMs (those are relatively compact missiles unlike the obsolete Sunburn).__- The airframe would be more likely bulid with the use of advanced composite materials (just like the PAK-FA) and painted with radar-absorbent paint for lower RCS signature. __- Modern avionics with the integration to the net centric warfare__The big question – what about cost of this "sea skimming monster". Another one – would it be more expensive than manned bomber or heavy UCAV?

  34. I think it’d make the coolest yacht imaginable, you could go pretty much anywhere theres an ocean. And plenty of room inside. Course youd have to be a billionaire to operate the thing, aint WIG’s grand? Well next to PBY’s as flying yachts.

  35. "So you think think that this would be more effective than the B2? Just because something is big and odd, doesn't mean its effective or the best use of time/money."

    B2's payload – up to 22 700 kg max

    Ekranoplan "Lun"'s payload – 130 000 kg

  36. "This thing could potentially chase down a bomber and take it out. It certainly looks like an ugly betty with little/no use, but if properly employed and equipped it could be a contender. All hypothetical of course because I highly doubt a design like this would ever become operational (again)."

    Matt, you got the points rightly. I think that newly designed and properly equipped Ekranoplan could be pretty useful. They can equip new "monster" with:
    – Big-Aperture AESA radar
    – Decent SAM of short – to – medium range with its own radar like a naval variant of the modern SA-22 mobile SAM which is able to shooting at moving .
    – Powerful ECM and modern avionics with the integration to the net centric warfare (datalinks with T-50s, naval bombers etc.)
    For offensive capabilities they could add tube launchers with modern SS-N-27 supersonic AShCMs (those are relatively compact missiles unlike the obsolete Sunburn). So no need to build giant vehicle.
    The airframe of supposed redesigned Ekranoplan could be more likely to be constructed with the use of advanced composite materials (just like the PAK-FA) and painted with radar-absorbent paint for lower RCS signature.
    The big question – what about cost of this "sea skimming monster". Another one – would it be more expensive than manned stealth bomber?

  37. "I think rough seas were this beast's main problem – 20 foot waves are not that unusual & weather changes fast. Then there are the giant squid…"

    The another one Soviet ekranoplan "Orlenok" which was designed for landing operations is able to fly at up to 3000 meters over the sea or land !

  38. It is even visible on Google Earth, search for "Kaspiysk ukraine" and zoom in on the harbour.

  39. The problem was, in fact, salt corrosion.

  40. there exists an even larger version, google "Caspian Sea Monster". IIRC the main problem of these things was the horrendous fuel consumption.

  41. Yeah, baby, this is Russia!

  42. Gilles Theophile | October 3, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply

    In 1996, I had the chance to visit the shipyard where those crafts have been designed and build (Alekseyev Design Bureau, Nizhny-Novgorod, on the Volga river). I've seen her sister ship, the Spasatel, transformed as a search and rescue vessel after the collapse of the Soviet Union. All those crafts have been tested and operated on the Caspian Sea from Kaspyisk, in the actual Dagestan Republic. Testing with small prototypes started on the Volga in 1961 (SM-1 model) and the concept was so effective that, in 1966, they build and flew the biggest flying machine at this time, the KM (92 meters long, 540 metric tons, 550 km/h). I even had the chance to talk with one of the flight engineers and he told me that it was flown manually, as the automatic stabilisation and navigation system was not ready for the first tests. The KM flew until 1981, but it stalled and crashed after a pilot mistake. 4 crafts saw official service in the Navy : 3 Orlyonok transports (last flight : 1993) and the craft shown here, the Lun', which is cruiser, carrying 6 antiship missiles. The Lun' weights 400 tons, is 75 meters long and max speed is 550 km/h. She flew between 1987 and 1990/1991.
    It is true that the underside was "secret", I was myself not allowed to photograph the underside in the factory. In fact, the secret lies in a kind of a "ski-damp" device, deploying to push upwards for take-offs, and to damp the craft during alighting.
    Don't be mistaken by the wave heights it can sustain : she can land in 3.5 meters waves, which is considerable – thanks to the short / big chord wings – and no classic seaplane can do that.
    To the contrary of hovercrafts who need engines to generate a static air cushion, she rides on a dynamic air cushion created by the forward motion. However, she needs huge engine power to lift off but as soon she is in ground effect, it is possible to shut down or idle unnecessary engines.
    They look like airplanes, they behave like airplanes, they use aircraft flight controls, engines and systems, but they are not airplanes, and the structure is heavy and solid. Alekseyev design bureau design ships and boats, and is world-wide known for its hydrofoil boats, used almost everywhere in the world.
    The ekranoplan program has been ended due to a lack of money and true interest from the authorites. But the technology is there and fits perfectly between high speed maritime boats and aircrafts. It is another kind of vehicle, which has been overlooked, unfortunately. Many experiments have been made in Germany, Australia, China, even USA, but only on light crafts, and only russians build the so-called "Caspian Monster" (in fact KM's nickname).

    Rgds, Gilles.
    France

  43. Gilles Theophile | October 3, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply

    Just to conclude my long comment, I confirm that the ekranoplans have been build in Nizhny-Novgorod, a city quite far away from the Caspian Sea, and towed to the sea, on the Volga river, probably with some covers to hide them.

    Rgds, Gilles.

  44. See also "James May's Big Ideas", pt 1. There he flies a modern, smaller version of a Russian Ekranoplan. Works very well, as long as you are confident there are no obstacles, and as long as you have enough space to stop in – no brakes as such.

  45. Yeah, "Aircraft Porn", guys?))) I say: "У нас есть такие приборы, но мы их вам не покажем"))) So, just fart )))

  46. That thing is awesome…!!!

  47. The plan for the plane was to wait until it target approched a critical access point say the north atlantic near Greenland and the euro coast and it would approach at high speed from shelter and fire its missiles and retreat.

  48. that is an amazing build and you know the russians always go for big soooo.

  49. They had even bigger ones

  50. I would have liked to show this article to my kids, but having to explain what "porn" has to do with aircraft ruled it out.

  51. Former Nameless King | March 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Reply

    If you ask me, we could take all the best features from this freak, combine them with new tech, and voila! Instant world domination soup. Or we could just build more of these, etc. But there are so many up-close hi-def photos of it out there, we could probably just build one w/out schematics!

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