A recent tweet from the Russian embassy in South Africa reveals the all-new ground effect vehicle technology Russia is working with. It's been dubbed as the ekranoplan Chaika A-050, which is under development and is set to serve as multi-purpose aircraft by 2020-2022.
According to Ivan Antsev, the executive director of the research and industrial association Radar MMS, scale models of the Chaika A-050 has already undergone testing and that the full-scale version is predicted to be operational in the next 3 to 5 years.
"Designer documentation is being drafted for this project at the moment. Work is in progress on its model and the details of control, piloting, navigation and radio-electronic systems. Scale models have been tested. We are determined to make Chaika fly in the near future. It is realistic to expect it will materialize in 2020-2022".
Russia is redesigning the Soviet Union's ekranoplan technology
Ground effect vehicles are typically designed to maximize flight efficiency by piloting it just above the surface of bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, seas etc. It exploits the aerodynamic interaction between the GEV's wings and some surface to maintain its flight profile. Apparently, this aerodynamic principle is most effective above the water surface rather than the ground surface. The Soviet Union were amongst the first to develop GEV technology and dubbed their early vehicles as "ekranoplan". Some of these notable USSR GEVs are the 550-ton Caspian Sea Monster built in the mid-1960s, the high-speed military vehicle the A-90 Orlyonok, and the Lun-class ekranoplan missile launcher. Given the ekranoplan's Soviet Union history, the new GEV being developed by Radar MSS is promising to become more than just a military asset. Unlike its assault GEV predecessors, Antsev expressed that the new Chaika A-050 ekranoplan will have a more diverse purpose.
"Chaika is a ground effect vehicle (sometimes referred to as flying yacht) having a displacement of 54 tonnes capable of carrying 100 passengers. Inside it will look like a plane and have a crew of two. Chaika will be about 35 meters long and carry a payload of nine tonnes. It will be used for carrying passengers, in emergencies, for ecological monitoring and cargo transportation".
Although a GEV is more difficult to pilot than ordinary aircraft, the Chaika A-050 is still ideal in certain flight scenarios. An ekranoplan that flies relatively low under surface radars is able to achieve a cruising speed of 360-450 kilometers per hour. This type of technology is primarily of great benefit for military operations as well as search and rescue missions.
"In principle, I can say that the government is interested in GEV vehicles", said Antsev. "We are working in this direction… The GEVs are a fundamentally new and promising type of transport. It can approach the unequipped coast, fly over rough seas and carry large payloads".
Radar MMS noted that their modern ekranoplan is able to cater particular needs of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of Transport, and the Defense Ministry.
Of course, the new Chaika A-050 could also be coupled with other defense equipment to give birth to an ultimate assault weapon.
"For instance, India has BrahMos cruise missiles, and our GEV can be equipped with them", said Antsev.