Sea-based multirole ground effect vehicle Chaika (Seagull) will be created in Russia in 2020-2022, the executive director of the research and industrial association Radar MMS, Ivan Antsev said.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Antsev said. 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.
“In principle I can say that the government is interested in GEV vehicles. We are working in this direction… The GEVs are a fundamentally new and promising type of transport. It can approach unequipped coast, fly over rough seas and carry large payloads,” Antsev said.
Soviet Union Ground Effect Vehicles
Led by Alexeyev, the Soviet Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau (Russian: ЦКБ СПК) was the center of ground-effect craft development in the USSR; in Russian, the vehicle came to be known as an ekranoplan (Russian: экранопла́н, экран “screen” + план “plane”, from эффект экрана, literally in Russian “screen effect“, for “ground effect” in English). The military potential for such a craft was soon recognized and Alexeyev received support and financial resources from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Some manned and unmanned prototypes were built, ranging up to eight tons in displacement. This led to the development of a 550-ton military ekranoplan of 92 m (301 feet) length. The craft was dubbed the “Caspian Sea Monster” by U.S. intelligence experts, after a huge, unknown craft was spotted on satellite reconnaissance photos of the Caspian Sea area in the 1960s. With its short wings, it looked airplane-like in planform, but would obviously be incapable of flight. Although it was designed to travel a maximum of 3 m (9.8 ft) above the sea, it was found to be most efficient at 20 m (66 ft), reaching a top speed of 300 kn (560 km/h; 350 mph) to 400 kn (740 km/h; 460 mph) in research flights.
The Soviet ekranoplan program continued with the support of Minister of Defence Dmitriy Ustinov. It produced the most successful ekranoplan so far, the 125-ton A-90 Orlyonok. These craft were originally developed as high-speed military transports and were usually based on the shores of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. The Soviet Navy ordered 120 Orlyonok-class ekranoplans, but this figure was later reduced to fewer than 30 vessels, with planned deployment mainly in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea fleets.
A few Orlyonoks served with the Soviet Navy from 1979 to 1992. In 1987, the 400-ton Lun-class ekranoplan was built as a missile launcher. A second Lun, renamed Spasatel, was laid down as a rescue vessel, but was never finished. The two major problems that the Soviet ekranoplans faced were poor longitudinal stability and a need for reliable navigation.
Minister Ustinov died in 1985, and the new Minister of Defence, Marshal Sokolov, cancelled funding for the program. Only three operational Orlyonok-class ekranoplans (with revised hull design) and one Lun-class ekranoplan remained at a naval base near Kaspiysk.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ekranoplans have been produced by the Volga Shipyard in Nizhniy Novgorod. Smaller ekranoplans for non-military use have been under development. The CHDB had already developed the eight-seat Volga-2 in 1985, and Technologies and Transport is developing a smaller version called the Amphistar. Beriev proposed a large craft of the type, the Be-2500, as a “flying ship” cargo carrier, but nothing came of the project.