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.

  • brian

    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.

    • Celt

      Czech Bi Static radar made B2 detectable before it was deployed.
      B-52 could not pen. Soviet airspace as of 1963 – needed new terrain following radar.
      Chow

      • ProjectThor

        Meathead… this thing DOESN’T really fly… it’s a freaking boat. Good Lord, look it up before opening your piehole.

        Lunch.

        • Guest A

          Thank you! What part of that can’t you wrap your head around brian?

        • MeCommenting

          It did fly. It used principals that Pelicans use in flight.

      • brian

        You still follow Soviet Propaganda?

    • Brano

      are you retard ? have you read something about this “craft” what was made for ????

    • Daleo

      I saw this thing a couple years ago it was designed to fly 50 feet off the water below radar deliver 500 fully armed troops and deliver 6 missiles from right off the coast, before anyone even knew there were on there way. Second it may be vintage style, however it has tube radios which will not go down with EMP. Final the U.S. Government did not this think existed until the fall of the Wall.

  • http://twitter.com/GONZ0HUNTER @GONZ0HUNTER

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

  • https://www.facebook.com/smartsterman Timothy Smart

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

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Please explain in what way the Ekranoplan is more susceptible to radar and/or missiles than any other FAC or maritime patron aircraft.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

      • Zepheris

        while he was exaggerating, given the size of this monster… i don’t think even the radar clutter will stop the radar from spotting this giant.

        most aircrafts even maritime patrol aircrafts should at least be able to get closer to whatever is protected by the radar or missile as long as they fly low enough, but when you are THIS big… i don’t think there is any way the radar is not going to SEE you coming…. i mean that thing is GIGANTIC even compared to larger aircraft like maritime patrol aircrafts.

      • jumper

        Size. Lack of maneuverability at speed. Moves in only 2 dimensions. Wasn’t designed with RCS in mind. Enormous thermal signature. Was that actually a serious question?

        In a day of supersonic missiles, with hypersonic on the horizon, only Russia would think putting this 300 knot dinosour back into production would strike fear into the hearts of, well anyone. The giant ground-effect craft is cool as hell, but wouldn’t be relative in today’s military landscape.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          Yes, it was actually a serious question. As I understand the idea behind the Ekranoplan/WIG, it should be thought of less as a low, slow aircraft and more as a fast surface vehicle.

          As for radar signature, that is neither larger nor smaller than any other vessel of that size. And yes, the actual Ekranoplan in the pictures has no stealth features at all, but then again, it’s an old design.

          Infrared: Yes, it will have an IR signature, just like any other motorized vehicle. But IIRC those 8 big engines out front are needed only for take off, to establish the ground-effect cushion under the vehicle. Once in cruise, they can be throttled back or, more likely, some of them are switched off. I see no reason why IR signature should be larger than an aircraft of similar size and power.

          I’m not saying that Ekranoplans/WIG’s are the do-all, end-all. Like all air and sea (and space, and…) vehicles they have advantages and disadvantages. Whether one outweighs the other depends on what you intend to do with it.

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen
          Luxembourg

        • M167A1

          You have a point Jumper, but I think you overstate it a bit. I would not spend the money on this either but its a valid alternate approach to the Sea denial mission.

          This platform attempts to combine the strengths of a surface ship, sensors and range. With the strenigths of an aircraft, speed and reaction time.

          Like attack boats this is most suited to restricted waters but having a 300 knot ship armed with cruiser sized antiship missles lurking about will tend to keep skippers up at night . Combine with some shore based missles. I bet you could keep that CV Battle Group out to sea another 100 miles. Thats 100 miles of your stuff that dosn’t earn the negitive attention of some Hornet driver. Yes there are other was to get at something but what many of us forget is that there are always more missions than platforms. So this would all be for the good in the defenders eyes.

          But again you’re right, its not worht the cost. I would just build more fighters.

    • William Peterson

      Nah,you’d need at least a battery of Screamin’ Mimi’s, or Long Toms… and something guided would be nice. But, point noted, against modern ordnance, it would be a sitting duck!

  • Michael

    It looks ugly.

    • tiger

      Other than Anna Kournikova, Russians designs rarely are pretty…..

    • justsaying

      I beg to differ…

  • Carlos

    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.

    • Stan

      And getting shot down by a plane travelling 2-3 times as fast with a missile from 30 miles away the crew doesn’t know is there? This interesting technical exercise had a single purpose, propaganda of Soviet technological superiority. Which was of course that much smoke going up some tailpipes.

      • chaos0xomega

        How is that really different from any other large aircraft or small naval vessel?

        • orly?

          cargo capacity and speed

          • Stan

            Cost/Effect. You can put many useful things on a ship, not so much on this thing. I look at this as an equivalent of Germany’s ww2 era rocket glider and the super tiger.

    • William Peterson

      30 knots or 300, a target is just a target… and this was a pretty big one! :->

  • Jayson

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

  • M167A1

    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…..

  • wqedsd

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

    • jhm

      love that game :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=586775852 John Borkowski

    See it on google maps! http://g.co/maps/q82aw

    • HalP

      Google Earth is better. And more fun. And faster.

      Long live Google Earth!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephenrusell Stephen N Russell

    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.

    • jumper

      The fuel burn alone makes standard ships and/or faster conventional cargo aircraft far more practical.

    • orly?

      That, and in any seastate OTHER than DEAD CALM will destroy this faster than you can say “WTF.”

    • M167A1

      I agree that fuel would be restrictive. Might make a good landing craft in some scenarios.

  • DennisBullert

    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.

    • orly?

      Its not supposed to through rough seas of anytype.

      • orly?

        *go through

  • Blight

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

    • IronV

      Hmmm. B-1 and B-52 seem to be doing just fine… More than fine. Extremely efficient platforms in fact…

    • blight

      The original mission profiles for F-111, B-1 and B-52 were to fly nape-of-the-earth into the Soviet Union and drop nuclear weapons.

      When the Soviets deployed aircraft with doppler radar to pick out these aircraft from ground clutter, their missions changed accordingly. There’s a reason why strategic bombers became the weakest link in the Strategic Triad.

      High altitude bombing couldn’t work (the Valkyrie would get shot down like the U-2), low altitude high-speed couldn’t work (see newer radar systems that could cut through ground clutter). The same is true with this hapless Ekranoplan. It flies in ground-effect, but it won’t save it from look-down shoot-down.

      • Matt

        Ground clutter… from what, all the waves? Pardon the sarcasm, but seriously, it’s a sea-skimmer. There is no ground clutter. It would be seen, of course… unless it was equipped with some effective Electronic Counter Measures, signal jammers, etc. Also, if it upgraded to a missile that went farther and higher, and if it was equipped with some AAA (probably would only be able to handle a low/medium caliber) then it could not only defend itself, but it might actually be a rather effective SAM threat to bombers ingressing from the sea. Naval ships typically just stay put and bombers can fly around them. 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).

        • orly?

          You really think something this huge can TURN at 340 mph if at all SURVIVE in any seastate other than DEAD CALM?

    • Mike

      Another idiot with no knowledge or insight of what he speaks. This site is loaded with them.

  • Rajarata

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

    • PMI

      If you look at the first photo you can see one of the engines still has the grate that would protect the turbine from large FOD impacts.

    • Matt

      Right… Geese out at sea… Even seagulls stay within 25 miles of the coast (typically). I’m sure there isn’t a whole lot of threat of FOD for this thing.

      • M167A1

        Its a worry to be certian, but not a fatal flaw.

  • Prodozul

    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!

    • Alex

      Oy, dont dis him, he said he was amazed.

    • M167A1

      The rooskies have their own approach to life. Generally brute force, but they will go to some leinghts to solve a problem.

      After the wall came down I got to visit a Soviet airfield in East Germany.

      There was a guy beating on something on a SU-25’s wing with a hammer. I asked our guide (this was part of an exchange) and he said (with cigarette hanging out of mouth)

      “is not racing car, is military aircraft.”

      Not sophisticated in our sense, but not invalid either.

  • mareo2

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

    • crackedlenses

      I thought of StarWars too when I saw the monstrosity…..

  • Ben

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

    • PMI

      They’re meant to take advantage of increased lift provided by operating within ground effect. So yes it flies but only 20 ft or so above the surface.

  • chaos0xomega

    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.

  • HalP

    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!!

    • tiger
    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      There are several civilan Wing In Ground-effect (WIG) vehicles on the market. Try googling “Wing in ground effect” and see what pops up.

      The only problem is that the aerodynamic effects that make large WIG’s efficient do not scale down well. So although small WIG’s work, they do not give the same degrees of efficiency as their larger cousins.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

    • HalP

      Thanks guys!!!

  • Carlos
  • Letsallbefriends

    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…

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      And the Kraken. Don’t forget the Kraken. He’s a vicious bugger…. :-)

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

      • tiger

        That must be what the tail gun is for?

    • Will

      You’re probably right about rough seas but even in relatively calm water the engines will ingest lots of salt spray. Corrosion & salt deposits may have been issues too.

  • Alex

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

  • Pete

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

  • Tony C

    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.

  • dan

    I heard you can buy one of these suckers

    • Alex

      You’ll have to wait for them to build more.

    • A. Nonymous

      There was only one of “these suckers” ever built and, as the pictures show, it is rotting away in a Russian shipyard.

    • tiger

      For enough cash you can buy anything there. Migs, politicians, wives…

      • M167A1

        I’ll take two of each please.

  • Mitch S.

    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.

    • M167A1

      Yep… Blofield’s lear jet….

  • Riceball

    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.

    • Guest A

      What are you going to do, tow it around at airshows not near the water?

  • Jack McHugh

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

    (Maybe at OKS – the Oshkosh airport.)

    • M167A1

      Just don’t try to fly it all the way to OKS.

  • William C.

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

  • Bjorn

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

  • Lance

    Looks neat.

  • Tim B

    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.

  • Shakes

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

  • AHSommer

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

  • klply

    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.

  • Stratege

    “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?

    • M167A1

      “This thing could potentially chase down a bomber and take it out.”

      It would have considerable difficulty catching any airrcraft. Perhaps if you parked your bomber at the beach it could cruse up and down trying to get an angle for a shot from its tail guns. :-P

      Jokes aside this is more a patrol boat or landing craft than an aircraft.

  • John Marshall

    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.

    • orly?

      You are not learning are you?

      • M167A1

        It WOULD look good in a bond movie…

        Flying up and down the channel with JBs harem in it….

  • Stratege

    “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

    • M167A1

      Apple meet Oranges, Oranges.. Apples.

  • Stratege

    “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?

  • Stratege

    “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 !

  • Mike

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/rabbitcancer Devon Edwards

    The problem was, in fact, salt corrosion.

  • mopper

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

  • Вася

    Yeah, baby, this is Russia!

  • Gilles Theophile

    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

  • Gilles Theophile

    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.

  • Carlos

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dark.stirlitz Dark Stirlitz

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

  • Richard

    That thing is awesome…!!!

  • SeaSpam

    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.

  • alex

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

    • alex

      there is no telling what the russians can do with that back in production

  • renowebb

    They had even bigger ones

  • A Reader

    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.

  • Former Nameless King

    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!