TsAGI centenary in the history of aviation: Lun ground-effect vehicle
18 July 2018
On July 16, 1986, a Soviet missile-carrying ground-effect vehicle Lun was launched for the first time. Its purpose is to hit surface vessels, especially aircraft carriers, with missiles. The Lun carried six supersonic anti-ship missiles, the ЗМ-80 Moskit, which could attain a speed of up to 500 km/h and fly for up to 2000 km. Its invisibility to radar allowed it to approach the target at a distance required to launch the missile Because of this the ground-effect vehicle received an unofficial name „killer of aircraft carriers.” Moreover, the Lun is one of the heaviest aircraft in the world.
Assembly of the first ground-effect vehicle sample started in 1983 at the Volga pilot plant. The dual nature of the winged vehicle allowed the designers to use both water and air effects. In accordance with the international classification ground-effect vehicles are considered to be sea vessels, however, the crafts are not limited to the sea: in the main operational mode they fly through the air at an altitude of several meters above water or land. Their main feature is usage of the ground effect, at which a blast under the wing reflects from the ground or water and creates additional lift. The ground-effect vehicle creates the impression of sliding above the surface without touching it. This allows to overcome air-cushion vehicles in terms of speed and combat characteristics, and aircraft — in terms of load-carrying capacity.
The Lun turned out to be a special task for the experts of the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute. The Institute’s hydrodynamics experts had to research new methods of modelling, modify the vehicle testing processes and simultaneously solve the tasks of providing seaworthiness, stability and controllability. This required solutions unconventional for sea aviation: blowing under the wing with engines, use of shock-absorbing plaining hydro-skis, etc. The experts also used results of modelling wind tunnel tests to study effects of a single and group missile launches from the Lun on its aerodynamics and dynamics both for sailing mode, and cruise flight modes. Ultimately, TsAGI experts played an important role in creating the stability and controllability theory for this type of crafts.
After successful testing the Lun ground-effect vehicle it was assigned to the 236th squadron of ground-effect vehicles of the Caspian Flotilla. However, in the 1990s work in this area of research stopped, and the craft was removed from service and preserved.