May 23, 2010

The Soviet Ekranoplan and WIG

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 wing-in-ground (WIG) ground effect technology in the 1930’s, but the craft reached a pinnacle of sorts in the 1980’s with the Lun , though WIG craft have yet to reach any broad application, whether military or commercial. Ekranoplans 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.

Soviet Ekranoplan 01

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.

Soviet Ekranoplan 02

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 Boeing 747. 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.

Soviet Ekranoplan 03 Soviet Ekranoplan 04 Soviet Ekranoplan 05 Soviet Ekranoplan 06 Soviet Ekranoplan 07 Soviet Ekranoplan 08 Soviet Ekranoplan 09 Soviet Ekranoplan 10 Soviet Ekranoplan 11 Soviet Ekranoplan 12 Soviet Ekranoplan 13 Soviet Ekranoplan 14 Soviet Ekranoplan 16 Soviet Ekranoplan 17 Soviet Ekranoplan 18 Soviet Ekranoplan 19 Soviet Ekranoplan 20 Soviet Ekranoplan 21 Soviet Ekranoplan 22 Soviet Ekranoplan 23 Soviet Ekranoplan 24 Soviet Ekranoplan 25

1 Responses to “The Soviet Ekranoplan and WIG”

Anonymous said...
May 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Great pics-I saw this plane years ago on the Discovery Channel, and always thought that it was a cool idea.

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