MD-160, the sole completed Lun-class ekranoplan
|In service||1987–late 1990s|
|Class and type||Lun|
|Type||Attack/Transport ground effect vehicle|
|Displacement||Displacement n/a, weight 286 tonnes unloaded|
|Length||73.8 metres (242 ft)|
|Beam||(Wingspan) 44 metres (144 ft)|
|Height||19.2 metres (63 ft)|
|Draught||(2.5 metres or 8 feet 2 inches)|
|Propulsion||8× Kuznetsov NK-87 turbojet engines, 127.4 kN (28,600 lbf) thrust|
|Speed||297 kn (550 km/h; 342 mph)|
|Range||1,000 nmi (1,900 km; 1,200 mi)|
|Capacity||100 tonnes (220,000 pounds)|
|Complement||six officers and nine enlisted men|
|Sensors and |
|Puluchas search radar|
The Lun-class ekranoplan (also called Project 903) is a ground effect vehicle (GEV) designed by Rostislav Alexeyev in 1975 and used by the Soviet and Russian navies from 1987 until sometime in the late 1990s.
It flew using lift generated by the ground effect acting on its large wings when within about four metres (13 ft) above the surface of the water. Although they might look similar to traditional aircraft, ekranoplans like the Lun are not classified as aircraft, seaplanes, hovercraft, or hydrofoils. Rather, crafts like the Lun-class ekranoplan are classified as maritime ships by the International Maritime Organization due to their use of the ground effect, in which the craft glides just above the surface of the water.
The ground effect occurs when flying at an altitude of only a few meters above the ocean or ground, the wings push air downwards where it is compressed between the wings and ocean surface. This causes higher pressure under the wings and creates lift. This effect does not occur at high altitude.
Design and development
The Lun-class ekranoplan was developed on the basis of the experimental KM ekranoplan, which was nicknamed the "Caspian Sea Monster".
The Lun was powered with eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofans, mounted on forward canards, each producing 127.4 kN (28,600 lbf) of thrust. It had a flying boat hull with a large deflecting plate at the bottom to provide a "step" for takeoff. It had a maximum cruising speed of 550 kilometres per hour (340 mph).
Equipped for anti-surface warfare, it carried the P-270 Moskit (Mosquito) guided missile. Six missile launchers were mounted in pairs on the dorsal surface of its fuselage with advanced tracking systems mounted in its nose and tail.
The only model of this class ever built to completion, the MD-160, entered service with the Soviet Navy Caspian Flotilla in 1987. It was retired in the late 1990s and sat unused at a Caspian Sea naval base in Kaspiysk until 2020.
The second Lun-class ekranoplan was partially built in the late 1980s. While its construction was underway, it was redesigned as a mobile field hospital for rapid deployment to any ocean or coastal location. It was named the Spasatel ("Rescuer"). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and cancellation of military funding, construction of the second craft was halted. As of 2021, the uncompleted Spasatel is stored adjacent to the Volga river in an old industrial complex within the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.
2020 towing operation
On 31 July 2020, the completed MD-160 Lun-class ekranoplan was towed out of the naval base in Kaspiysk, with the intention of being eventually put on public display in Derbent, Dagestan, at the planned Patriot Park, a combination museum and theme park that will display Soviet and Russian military equipment. The towing operation involved the use of rubber pontoons, three tugboats and two escort vessels, and would have covered approximately 100 km (62 miles) had it been completed. However, during the tow the ekranoplan became stuck just offshore of a sandy beach, short of the intended destination.
The team managing the towing operation was unable to free the massive vehicle, so the ekranoplan was secured and remained beached in the surf zone while plans were drawn up on how to continue the move to Patriot Park. In the meantime, the unusual craft began attracting attention from the media, onlookers, and trespassing "urban explorers", even before the park was built. One report published in August 2020 stated that the hull, exposed to the waves in the surf zone, was taking on water. Moving the craft to dry land beyond the surf zone would eliminate the possibility that increased wave action during storms could damage the hull further. In December 2020 a successful recovery operation resulted in the ekranoplan being hauled out of the water, nose-first, with the tail ending up about 20-30m (65-100ft) from the sea, as seen from satellite imagery. As of July 2021, when the Lun will be publicly displayed at a completed Patriot Park is unclear.
Data from 
- Crew: 15 (6 officers, 9 enlisted)
- Capacity: 137 t (302,000 lb)
- Length: 73.8 m (242 ft 2 in)
- Wingspan: 44 m (144 ft 4 in)
- Height: 19.2 m (63 ft 0 in)
- Wing area: 550 m2 (5,900 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 286,000 kg (630,522 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 380,000 kg (837,757 lb)
- Powerplant: 8 × Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofans, 127.4 kN (28,600 lbf) thrust each
- Maximum speed: 550 km/h (340 mph, 300 kn)
- Cruise speed: 450 km/h (280 mph, 240 kn) at 2.5 m (8 ft)
- Range: 2,000 km (1,200 mi, 1,100 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 5 m (16 ft) in ground effect
- Guns: two 23mm Pl-23 cannon in a twin tail turret and two 23mm Pl-23 cannon in a twin turret under forward missile tubes
- Missiles: six launchers for P-270 Moskit Sunburn antiship missiles
- Shukla, Vikas (2015-09-09). "Russia Revives Its Soviet-Era Ekranoplan Project". ValueWalk. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- Johnson, Robert; Rosen, Armin. "Here's The Astonishing Hovercraft That The Soviets Could Have Used To Invade Western Europe In The 80s". Business Insider. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- Liang Yun; Alan Bliault; Johnny Doo (3 December 2009). WIG Craft and Ekranoplan: Ground Effect Craft Technology. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 436–. ISBN 978-1-4419-0042-5.
- Cui, E.; Zhang, X. (2010). "Chapter 18 Ground Effect Aerodynamics". undefined. S2CID 29236092. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
- "Here's a Closer Look at the Soviet Navy's 1987 Lun-Class Ekranoplan". interestingengineering.com. 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
- "Flying Magazine". Flying : The World's Most Widely Read Aviation Magazine: 72–. July 1994. ISSN 0015-4806.
- Ashley Hollebone (31 March 2012). The Hovercraft Story. History Press Limited. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-0-7524-8512-6.
- Norman Ferguson (1 April 2013). The Little Book of Aviation. History Press Limited. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-0-7524-9285-8.
- Cenciotti, David (10 August 2020). "Take A Look At These Incredible Shots Of The Russia's Sole Completed Lun-Class Ekranoplan". The Aviationist. Archived from the original on 2020-10-06. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
- Fast Ferry International. High-Speed Surface Craft Limited. 2003.
- Satellite view of uncompleted Lun-class ekranoplan in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia via Google Maps. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
- Ros, Miquel (22 October 2020). "The 'Caspian Sea Monster' rises from the grave". CNN. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
- Chapple, Amos (11 August 2020). "Belly Of The Beast: Illicit Photos From Inside The Soviet Ekranoplan". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
- Sutton, H. I. (11 August 2020). "Russian Navy's Mighty 'Ekranoplan' May Have Been Wrecked". Forbes. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
- "Satellite view of beached Lun ekranoplan". Retrieved 25 July 2021 – via Yandex Maps.
- van Optal, Edwin. "Lun". Netherlands: The WIG Page. pp. The WIG Page Datasheet no. 26. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lun-class ekranoplan.|
- on YouTube (1m0s)
- on YouTube (2m5s, silent)
- Satellite view after Lun was successfully pulled ashore via Yandex Maps
- Wired article with image gallery (suitable for slow or metered connections)
- Extensive Lun imagery (faster connection recommended) with Russian text, or mirrored imagery with translated captions
- Cutaway provisional drawing of the Lun-class ekranoplan via hisutton.com ekranoplan/WIG page