Inside the Soviet Ekranoplan



 

The Lun-class ekranoplan (The name Lun comes from the Russian word for harrier) 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 the lift generated by the ground effect of its large wings when within about four metres (13 ft) above the surface of the water. Although they might look similar to regular aircraft, and have related technical characteristics, ekranoplans like the Lun are not aircraft, seaplanes, hovercraft, nor hydrofoils. Rather, “ground effect” is a distinct technology. The International Maritime Organization classifies these vehicles as maritime ships.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Russia will be museumizing its missile-carrying Project 903 Lun class Ekranoplan.

As the impressive beast has not been used in decades, it will be put on display in Patriot Park in the city of Derbent in the Russian republic of Dagestan. One brave urban explorer, called Lana Sator, snuck inside to take some pretty stunning shots, the results of which can be seen below. The Soviet Ekranoplan is the only nuclear-capable, ground-effect vehicle in the world. The formerly top-secret naval vessel had the capability to buzz just above the waves, using eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbofan engines, in order to avoid radar detection as well as anti-ship mines. 

The vessel, which flew thanks to a cushion of pressure caused by the so-called ‘ground-effect’, was also equipped with six launchers along its spine capable of launching small nuclear missiles that could destroy an entire aircraft carrier.




A dangerous expedition

Still, while it currently lies in wait to be shipped to Derbent, photographer Lana Sator was able to sneak inside with a friend and two watertight bags full of photography equipment. As Sator explained to Rferl, taking the illicit photographs was not an easy undertaking. When they snuck aboard, Sator and her friend were frightened to see a guard, before realizing that he was sleeping over the low buzz of a generator placed on the vessel. The result of Sator’s trip is one of the most impressive examples of urban exploration we’ve ever seen — be sure to check out all the pics by scrolling left on the Instagram posts above. For more impressive abandoned buildings and vehicles, have a look at our list of abandoned structures here.

 

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