and probably the ugliest as well.
I’m giving this the Squid tag, and Technorati can just sue me, because this has the central core of Squiddiness, the Platonic Ideal of a Squid-like quality, and that is that regardless how loathesome this thing may be you cannot possibly look away, nor think any thought but “KEWL” while you’re looking at it. It’s just frickin’ cool!
Besides which, it is a Sea Monster. Read on…
Technically speaking this is not an airplane. It’s a WIG (wing in ground, although you shouldn’t put it there cuz it really slows you down) or GEV (ground effect vehicle, which makes a helluva lot more sense, particularly if you already know what the ground effect is, and if you don’t, read on). Them military folks love their TLMs, don’t they?
Planes, as you may already know, have big wings because they need a lot of lift to get off the ground and start flying around and suchlike, which is mostly what planes do, although sometimes they just sit on the taxiway getting de-iced and making people impatient.
But if you’re not really going to fly per se, you don’t really need wings per se. What Orville and Wilber or, in this case Ivan and Sergei probably, discovered was that if you fly very, very close to the ground you can compress the air beneath the wings and get far more lift out of it, substantially reducing the amount of square wingage you need to get off the ground. Which brings us to the Caspian Sea Monster.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and couldn’t even if it wanted to, as back in the Fifties CS Lewis‘ publisher wasn’t publishing editions of the Chronicles of Narnia in the US, because of a copyright treaty dispute. So, no. Forget it.
anybody got a handy Russian/English translator?
One afternoon in the Sixties a bunch of Americans were sitting around the spy department, looking at some spy photos taken over Russia, and there on the surface of the Caspian Sea they saw the butt-ugliest thingamabobby they’d ever laid eyes on. It was so big and bizarre they dubbed it the Caspian Sea Monster. It looked kinda like a plane, with sawn off wings, but it was wildly out of scale; the damn thing was enormous. It was a monster.
It was, to be precise, 100 metres long, about 540 tons in weight, and was equipped with an alarmingly thorough cadre of ten jet engines. It was obviously meant to go somewhere, fast. Strangely, followup photographs never seemed to show the damn thing in flight, just skimming along the tops of the waves, and by that I mean an altitude of, say, three to ten feet. If it happened to be flying over the sea on a choppy day it would have been like driving through snowbanks until they got up to speed.
One wonders what the poor sturgeons thought of this humungous tin can, ripping over their heads at 350 mph. Can’t have been good for the caviar crop, I’m thinking. A placid sturgeon is a productive sturgeon. I’m pretty sure I saw that on a Social Realist poster somewhere, or if not then I just made it up.
One or the other, for sure, though.
Eventually the program wound down, although not without inadvertently producing some of the Caspian Sea‘s finest new reefs first. Attempts to raise sunken Sea Monsters were abandoned because of the weight and the fact that the Glomar Explorer was already booked for that weekend. There is a diversity of opinion about why the Russians ceased production, but best guesses include: there was a nasty crash in 1975/1980 and the Russians lost heart; the sea water rusted the hell out of the damn things; the Cold War ended and capitalism has no need for such toys; it wasn’t really big enough in the first place; what do you mean ceased production?
Apparently Boeing is working on an updated, and equally ridiculous-looking, iteration of the WIG/GEV/Sea Monster genus, called the Pelican. Don’t hold your breath for this one: the production announcement has been indefinitely delayed since 2002.
This is a turboprop-driven military transport with a 500 ft wingspan and is designed to carry 1300 tons of cargo over a distance of up to 10,000 nautical miles.
At an altitude of 20 ft.
Windsurfers are advised to be prepared to duck.
Source material is found:
and at The Register, although they’ll bleed you dry for pageviews with the story on four damn pages.