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Caspian Sea Monster

The Caspian Sea Monster has been sighted for years on the Caspian Sea as a huge, fast-moving object. After the end of the Cold War, the "monster" turned out to be a secret airplane of the Russian military, designed to fly only a few meters above water, thus saving energy and staying below enemy radar. The Russian name for this plane type is Ekranoplan, which translates roughly as sea skimmer. The KM, as the model was known in the top secret Soviet military development program, was over 100 meters long, weighed 540 tons fully loaded, and could travel over 400 km/hr mere meters above the surface of the water. Once moving at speed, the ekranoplan was no longer in contact with the water, and could move over ice, snow, or level land with equal ease.

Ekranoplans are ground effect vehicles, operating on the principle of wing in ground effect, where the air gap between a wing and the ground is small enough for the air to be compressed. This effect can be felt when landing in a commercial air liner; just before touchdown, the angle of descent can be felt to decrease. Ground effect vehicles skim just above a flat surface, with the height being dependent upon the size of the vehicle.

The term ground effect vehicle is often misapplied to hovercrafts, which use fans to form an air cushion (hence the correct term air cushion vehicle) rather than relying on true ground effect. The name Caspian Sea Monster was given by confused U.S. intelligence operatives, who were puzzled by the huge vehicle, which looked like an airplane with the outer halves of the wings removed.



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