Ekranoplan Lun-Class Monster An Ekranoplan is a giant, ground effect vehicle that resembles an aircraft but is technically a maritime ship, that uses ground effect lift to basically fly above the surface of the water.
Russia developed the Lun-class ekranoplan which was nicknamed the “Caspian Sea Monster”, the name originated when the US intel spotted it in the Caspian sea during testing.
The Soviet Union had intended to use them for surprise attacks and to quickly deploy troops and weapons in an amphibious assault against the NATO countries and for rescue missions.
The Lun was powered with eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofans, mounted on forward canards, each producing 127.4 kN (28,600 lbf) of thrust.
One of the plane’s drawbacks was a very bumpy ride in rough seas. Similarly to hovercraft, the craft performs optimally on a flat-ish surface to move.
Moreover even if a combat-mission rules out flying over the weather, a regular airplane can work when rough seas might rule out ekranoplan activity.
Which renders it useless much of the time.
Would the ekranoplan “undetectable to radar”, due to the height being too low for detection?
For most modern ground-based radar, the radar cannot detect anything below the horizon.
Long-wavelength radars, with wavelengths long enough follow the earth’s curvature (like Chain Home did for the Brits in WW2, detecting German formations when they were still over France).
At sea, an aircraft flying at sufficient altitude should be able to pick up even much smaller contacts, provided a line of sight.
Since water likes to gobble up radio-waves, rather than reflecting them chaotically as the dirt does, I don’t think it would even take the “look-down-shoot-down” capability that a high flying aircraft needs to track and engage a low flying target in between those chaotic reflections.
There’s the ocean. For the radar, a big black hole that doesn’t reflect radio waves.
And suddenly, there is a big metal thing moving across it, reflecting all those radio waves just fine.
NATO aircraft carriers tend to have a combat air patrol orbiting the battle group/flotilla. Specifically looking for incoming attackers. As a result, something as enormous as a Lun could have been found with relative ease. So not inherently well suited for attacking NATO formations.
The Russians did develop another wing-in-ground craft, one that wasn’t considered an official Ekranoplan. The Bartini Beriev VVA-14.
That was intended for anti-submarine warfare. But it could also fly at high altitude, such as when the seas got too rough.
Russia has used the Caspian Sea for military testing for decades.
Ekranoplan Lun is still stuck some 10 kilometers East of Derbent, Russia, it is supposed to be moved from the Navy Base in Kaspiysk to Derbent Central recreational park. And the government plans to erect a pedestal for public display of the craft.
From automatic, 50. caliber, handheld machine guns such as the 6P62 and ASh-12.7 to the SS-18 Satan Missile, Russian weapons can get pretty intense. And Ekranoplan was certainly up there in imagination.
Ekranoplan remained the largest aircraft in the world during the entirety of its existence. And is the second-largest aircraft ever built, behind the Antonov An-225 Mriya that flew for the first time in 1988.