One Of The World's Most Unique Planes To Be Made Into Public Attraction
One of the world's most unique planes - the Russian MD-160, aka 'Ekranoplan', aka 'Utka' - has been transported to Derbent, Dagestan, to become a tourist attraction.
The Star Wars-esque MD-160 was designed in 1975 and used by Soviet and Russian navies from 1987 during the latter stages of the Cold War as part of the WIG (wing-in-ground-effect) programme.
After its retirement in the late '90s, the ship was left sitting at the unused Kaspiysk naval base. That is, until last month, when the vehicle was towed across the Caspian Sea in a 14-hour journey from the naval base to Derbent.
The incredible aircraft is set to go on display at Patriot Park in Russia's semi-autonomous republic of Dagestan when it opens to the public later this year.
Despite looking like a plane, the Lun-class ekranoplan model comes under the 'ground effect' category, making it a distinct technology that the International Maritime Organization classifies as maritime ships.
A ground effect vehicle is one that is designed to attain sustained flight over a level surface (usually over the sea) by making use of the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface.
It used a cushion of air beneath its wings to speed above the sea's surface at 13ft, making it essentially like a flying boat and one that was very hard for the enemy to detect.
The MD-160 is the only model of its kind to be completed and equipped with carrier-killing supersonic missiles.
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It's no surprise that US intelligence authorities did a fair bit of digging on the vehicle, leading to the discovery of a secret document that detailed the roles of the WIGs.
This included design details, with claims the MD-160 was made 'to fly at speeds of 200 to 250 knots at about 5 to 10 meters above the water's surface'.
CIA officials added: "The Utka class WIG is a tactical strike and coastal defence vehicle for the Soviet Navy. It carries six supersonic SS-N-22 anti-ship cruise missiles.
"The Utka, can engage enemy ships out to its radar horizon (about 35 kilometers/22 miles) but can fire the SS-N-22 out to the missile's 100-kilometer (62-mile) range with over-the-horizon targeting data.
"The Utka is larger than a US Boeing 747 jet airplane and flies at about 250 knots. One Utka has been built.
"We believe that an Utka strike force or coastal defense force would give the Soviets a quick-reaction capability against surface combatants.
"However, unless the Utka can pop up out of ground effect to extend its radar horizon, it will require external sources of targeting information."
While a second model was built, it did not make it out of Kaspiysk and, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, plans to build seven more were scrapped.
Featured Image Credit: Lana Sator/WENN
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