Surface Forces: August 29, 2002


: Despite previous statements in the Russia press, the Caspian Flotilla's wing-in-ground-effect [WIG] vehicles did not take part in the August exercise but may be given a new breath of life. Only one DP 903 missile-armed WIG vehicle is currently in the Russian Navy's order of battle and is not combat-ready, while the DP 904 ships were written off and the DP 9037 rescue vehicle have not been fitted out. 

The Soviet Union built more than 30 ground-effect machines, starting in 1957. These craft - a cross between an airplane and a ship - employed a dynamic air cushion generated when the craft is moving above a water or ground surface. The Russians refer to the class as a surface plane, or "ekranoplan", while American intelligence labeled them "Caspian Sea Monsters".

At one time, several types of WIG ships were operating on the Caspian in great secrecy; the "Lun" (Project 903, NATO classification "Utka") is a WIG combat missile craft the Russians claim could almost send almost an aircraft carrier to the bottom since it carries Moskit cruise missiles; three missiles in each of the two launchers. The craft was not ready for the Caspian exercises due to it's poor maintenance status and the lack of funds required for repairs. Three "Dragon" light land assault ground-effect craft (Project 904, NATO designation "Orlyonock"), each capable of taking aboard up to a company of naval infantrymen, had been removed from the fleet inventory and decommissioned. The "Spasatel-1" craft, (Project 9037, NATO designation "Utka-2") was still at the Nizhny Novgorod shipyard due to financial constraints. 

In 1993, the Russian WIG vehicles were shown to foreigners and allegedly a documentation package was sold to Israel. Those operational WIG vehicles which weren't cut up for scrap and simply left to rust idly on the Caspian shore will now be restored and modernized. - Adam Geibel

For more on Russian WIG vehicles online, see:
"Caspian Sea Monsters"




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