A Soviet-made ground-effect vehicle recently made news when a blogger photographed it beached on a Caspian Seashore. The formidable war machine that was designed to pierce the waters and annihilate enemy forces was discarded for good when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Turns out, there is another representative of the almost extinct breed located in Nizhny Novgorod, a Russian city on the Volga River.
This Soviet-made ground-effect vehicle — known as an ‘ekranoplan’ (which roughly translates as “screen glider”) in Russian — is almost identical to the Caspian Sea monster, also known as ‘The Lun’.
Just as its twin from Derbent, the wingship in Nizhny Novgorod was designed to annihilate hostile force by swiftly “flying” over a body of water, due to pressure underneath its body created by its giant wings.
In contrast to the “Lun” wingship, however, its twin was repurposed from a war machine to an emergency vehicle and named accordingly: spasatel (the ‘Rescuer’).
“Initially, it was the same model [as the ‘Lun’], but they had no time to complete it and decided to turn it into a civilian ship. That’s how the ship became a big hospital. A hundred and fifty beds and, if necessary, it could carry five hundred people at a time,” said Tatyana Alekseyeva, an engineer who participated in the construction of the two ground-effect vehicles developed in the Alekseyev Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau [named after her father] in the USSR in the 1980s.
Compared to ‘Lun’, the ‘Rescuer’ may appear less intimidating, as it lacks anti-ship cruise missiles, which were removed after the warship was redesigned into a unique civilian machine.
Yet, the two are comparable in size. The ‘Rescuer’ is 93 meters long and has a wingspan of 44 meters. It could reach a cruise speed of 550 km/h (341 mph), a level unmatched by any other heavy ships of the time.
Just as the wingship from Derbent, the ‘Rescuer’ was abandoned at the time of the Soviet Union collapse.
Today, it rests by a factory in Nizhny Novgorod and beckons travel bloggers and photographers as a unique example of the Soviet engineering aspirations that were never fulfilled.
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