Home WORLD Unusual Aircraft – Ekranoplan the Leviathan, A Boat, Or A Plane?

Unusual Aircraft – Ekranoplan the Leviathan, A Boat, Or A Plane?

Designers around the world are trying to build radical new aircraft, at this secret airbase outside Moscow, Russian engineers created what looked more like a flying saucer than a plane. Called “Tarelka”, it was conceived during the height of the Cold War. This early secret footage shows the first scale model tests. Despite their methods being low-tech the results were remarkable. It looked impossible but the Tarelka flew.

image/text credit: Naked Science 

Initial tests were so successful that construction began on a full size Tarelka. Looking like a craft from another planet, it could carry up to a dozen passengers, and possibly become the new executive jet of the future. The engines are housed inside the main body.The small wings provide no lift at all, they help stabilise and steer the machine.

image/text credit: Naked Science 

But shortage of money from the Russian government caused work to stop on the Tarelka. A waterborne version was also tested, it was designed to travel just above the surface of the water using a cushion of air to provide lift for very little thrust. This is called ground effect, something Russian designers had used in their most unusual aircraft.


The Lun-class Ekranoplan, also known as the Caspian Sea Monster, is a ground effect vehicle designed by Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeev and used by the Soviet and Russian navies from 1987 until the late 1990s. Larger than jumbo jet, this astonishing machine is powered by eight huge turbofan jet engines.

It flew using the lift generated by the ground effect of its large wings when close to the surface of the water. Although they might look similar and have related technical characteristics, Ekranoplans like the Lun are not aircraft, seaplanes, hovercraft, or hydrofoils. Ground effect is a separate technology altogether. The International Maritime Organization classifies these vehicles as maritime ships.