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It’s a Boat, It’s a Plane, No, It’s an Abandoned Russian Sea Monster

A post over on Reddit surfaced a couple of days ago showing this beached Russian monster. It’s called an ekranoplan, and it’s neither a plane nor a boat. Technically it does fly, but it cannot go more than just a couple of feet above the surface. While spying on the construction of this contraption by the sovients during the Cold War, it reportedly took the CIA almost 20 years to figure that the thing couldn't fly.
LUN-CLASS MD-160 11 photos
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The first generation of the ekranoplan was internally named Korabl Maket, which would translate to ship “maquette,” or “prototype.” Not quite an aircraft or a watercraft, it was a Ground Effect Vehicle. It was also dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster. Back then, the infamous arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was taking place. Bragging rights were at stake for whoever had the better machinery capable of annihilating each other’s country.

One such example was the dreaded “Hiroshima” K-19 nuclear submarine that suffered a reactor coolant malfunction while performing drills in the North Atlantic Ocean. Twenty-two members of the crew had to sacrifice their lives in order to fix the malfunction. Otherwise, that reactor, along with a second one and three nuclear warheads, could have gone off to devastating global consequences.

However, the Cold War kept marching on, and that’s why the Caspian Sea Monster was born. Even after fifteen years of testing, the first generation vehicle (Korabl Maket) did not get the green light to join the service. This is how the second-generation Lun-class MD-160 came to be. Redesigned, this titan-sized war machine was fitted for anti-surface combat, equipped with six missile launchers.

Like the first model, this wasn’t designed to fly at high altitudes either. It was meant to quickly travel below the radar if this was ever the case. It used what is called the “ground effect” to maintain its very low altitude by means of aerodynamics. The design of the ship created an air cushion under its wings that didn’t allow for the behemoth to either sink or take flight.

This, in turn, is what made the ekranoplan go extremely fast. It was equipped with eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofan engines, each developing 28,700 lbf of thrust or 26,098 horsepower. The entire thing produced 208,784 hp. That meant the Lun-class MD-160 reached speeds of 342 mph (550 kph). Just imagine seeing the 242 ft 2 in (73.8 m) long monster with a wingspan of 144 ft 4 in (44 m) going at almost half the speed of sound. Now that’s a sight to behold.


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