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Soviet Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau KM / Caspian Sea Monster
Alexeyev Hydrofoil Design Bureau Lun Class



The Monster (its Russian designation was KM, derived from the words Korabl’ Maket or “ship model”) was nothing less than a juggernaut, one of the largest heavier-than-air flying machines ever built. At 500 tonnes it had a 100-tonne MAUW advantage over its fellow winged heavyweight the Boeing 747. No less than ten jet turbines constituted its propulsion system, an array of power used for takeoff rather than cruise. Eight turbines were arranged in a shoulder-mounted stub-wing battery just aft of the cockpit. Capable of being deflected under the mainplane where a full-span trailing edge flap would trap their thrust, their combined power could generate an immense lifting force via a hovercraft-like static air cushion to cruise 4 metres above the water




The Lun-class ground effect vehicle (GEV), or sea skimmer, was developed by Russian engineers at the Alexeyev Hydrofoil Design Bureau.
During the Cold War, ekranoplans were sighted for years on the Caspian Sea as huge, fast-moving objects. The name Caspian Sea Monster was given by U.S. intelligence operatives who had discovered the huge vehicle, which looked like an airplane with the outer halves of the wings removed. After the end of the Cold War, the “monster” was revealed to be one of several Russian military designs meant to fly only a few meters above water, saving energy and staying below enemy radar.
The KM, as the Caspian Sea Monster was known in the top secret Soviet military development program, was over 100 m long (330 ft), weighed 540 tonnes fully loaded, and could travel over 400 km/h (250 mi/h), mere meters above the surface of the water.
These craft were originally developed by the Soviet Union as very high-speed (several hundred km/hour) military transports, and were mostly based on the shores of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. The largest could transport over 100 tonnes of cargo. The only three operational A-90 Orlyonok ekranoplans built (with renewed hull design) and one Lun-class ekranoplan remained at a naval base near Kaspiysk.




The Lun-class ("Harrier") Ekranoplan MD-160, dubbed the "Caspian Sea Monster" by US Intelligence services, was one of a kind. It was capable of carrying up to 124 tonnes of troops and equipment, including as many as six nuclear missiles, at speeds up to 560km/h as far as 2000km. Eight Kuznetsov 128.9kN NK-87 turbofans mounted on the front cannards provided the thrust to get the seaplane's hull up and out of the water and engage the ground effect.
While ground-effect vehicles are a highly efficient way to transport cargo over long distances, the MD-160 had significant drawbacks in its military applications. For one thing, manoeuvrability. Anything resembling a sharp turn was right out, and allowing a wing tip to even sniff the water could result in 500 tonnes of seaplane cartwheeling along the surface of the Caspian. And since the ground effect didn't actually take effect until the plane was out of the water, the MD-160 had to always take off into the wind.

In 1987, the first flight was made by Lun, an ekranoplan-rocket carrier. It was armed with six guided anti-ship missiles "3M-80 Mosquito".




After the successful completion of state tests "Lun" was in 1990 transferred to trial operation. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the cessation of work in this area and the disbanding of the 11th Air Group of the Black Sea Fleet E-Wing.


So while the MD-160 was thoroughly impervious to subsurface mines and torpedoes, its size and complete lack of manoeuvrability made the planes sitting ducks against Western air forces (hence its NATO designation: Duck), often requiring armed escort and forward scouting boats to avoid obstacles. The Ekranoplan carried anti-ship P-270 Moskit guided missiles in six pairs mounted onto its fuselage as well as a pair of 23mm Pl-23 cannons in a tail turret and forward-facing pair under the forward missile tubes.
Despite the the MD-160's shortcomings, Soviet high command continued to move forward with the program right up until the Soviet Union fell. A second MD-160, destined to be a mobile field hospital, was 90 per cent complete and another 30 A-90 Orlyonok GEVs, meant to strengthen the Black Sea Fleet, were on order when the program's funding was cut. The MD-160 currently resides at a naval station in Kaspiysk.



MAUW: 540 tonne
Engines: 10
Cruise: 300 kt


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