Ekranoplan Updates! The “Caspian Sea Monster” crawls ashore, and it isn’t alone!

We located new views of the Soviet naval ekranoplan MD-160, the only completed Lun-class Ekranoplan, on the beach South of Derbent, Republic of Dagestan, and have added these to our listing of these very unusual craft!

MD-160, detailed view.
MD-160 hauled ashore 12 km south of Derbent on the Caspian coast.

Towed down the coast from its long-term outside storage at Kaspiysk in late July, 2020, this 242-foot long “Caspian Sea Monster” is intended to join the collection of the giant Patriot Park museum/reanactment center.* It grounded accidentally and became stuck on the beach in the surf, and was feared to have been significantly damaged. However, recent efforts in December succeeded in moving it inland, out of harm’s way. MD-160 is a Lun-class “ground-effect” or “wing-in-ground” vehicle. It was a development of the 302-foot long KM, the largest aerial vehicle of its time (new entry for this beastly craft in the listing). Soviet Ekranoplans were designed at the Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau, and mostly the product of visionary designs by hydrofoil expert Rostislav Alexeyev.

KH-8 satellite image of the Soviet naval base at Kaspiysk from 1968 showing the larger KM. National Reconnaissance Office.

MD-160 entered service in 1987 and was retired sometime during the late 1990s. Unlike the KM, and smaller ekranoplans, it was armed with six enormous p-270 Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles, mounted in pairs of tubes staggered along the dorsal surfaces of the fuselage. Guidance systems for these were found in bulges in the nose and just at the leading edge of the massive tail section. It had stubby wings with a wingspan of 144-feet. Eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbojet engines, mounted in pods of four jets on each side of the cockpit, powered this strange craft.

Artist’s conception of an ekranoplan, which closely resembles the Lun-class, ca. 1988 NARA: 330-CFD-DD-ST-88-09484 (unidentified artist)

While researching MD-160, we heard for the first time about a “sister-plan.” There exists a second, unfinished variant named Spasatel (Russian for “Rescuer”), whose design was modified, removing the anti-ship missile tubes. It was intended to serve as an ambulance transport or Search and Rescue craft…maybe a hospital ekranoplan!

The unfinished variant of the Lun class ekranoplan, Spasatel appears largely intact from this view, with both wings and the tail surfaces dismantled and stacked separately on top of the fuselage.

Left unfinished upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, It was stored in a shed near the shipyards at Nizhny Novgorod, until moved outside around 2014. there is some interest in resuming the project! The view above shows all the major pieces are stacked on the fuselage. For more views of ekranoplans, please check out our Russian Navy – Ekranoplans listing page.

A cutaway model of Spasatel at MAKS airshow, 2015, showing the arrangement as a medical transport ekranoplan. [detail of] Credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

*  The original KM was called the “Caspian Sea Monster” by Western observers, so these Lun class ekranoplans may more accurately be the daughters of the Caspian Sea Monster.

Author: Warsearcher

Ballistic Research Missile of Truthiness (BRMT)

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