Caspian Sea Monster faces extinction

Orlyonok GEV. RIA Novosti
The Russian Defense Ministry has chosen not to commission new Ground Effect Vehicles, according to a media report, scotching speculation that the legendary Caspian Sea Monster program and its smaller flying ship siblings might be revived.

The military’s procurement plans until 2020 have no funds for new Ground Effect Vehicles (GEV), reports Izvestia newspaper, citing a source in the ministry. Neither does the Navy want new vessels of this class, a Navy general command spokesman told the newspaper.

“There is no talk about its revival. The Navy has many serious tasks, maybe not as ambitious as in past years. We prefer not to have illusions,”
the spokesman is cited as saying.

In July 2010, the Alekseev design bureau, which constructed the legendary GEVs for the Soviet army, reported that the Defense Ministry wanted it to produce more such vehicles. A spokesman for the company said work would start in 2012.

Ground Effect Vehicles are a cross between a normal ship and an aircraft. They normally fly a few meters above the surface, and the air cushion produced by its wings adds lift. In an emergency it can rise much higher, but only at the expense of greater fuel consumption.

The design allows very large vehicles to stay in the air and travel at the speed of a regular aircraft regardless of the condition of the surface below them. A GEV will fly in a storm or over ice, and will only be blocked by high hills and mountains. From a military standpoint, they are also harder to spot by radar, because they literally fly below it.

The Soviet military commissioned some 30 such vehicles. The biggest was the 544-ton KM-6, an experimental GEV, which was dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster by Western intelligence. There were also the 250-ton Lun striker armed with eight anti-ship cruise missiles and the Orlyonok transports which could carry up to 200 fully-armed marines or up to two tanks or APC with their crews.

At the moment, no GEVs are in service in the Russian military. Several private firms in Russia are developing much smaller vessels of this kind to be used as patrol and passenger craft.