Russia has sold Iran six ekranoplan ground-effect vehicles (GEVs), RIA Novosti has reported.
Dubbed the “Caspian Sea Monster” by the CIA, the ekranoplan is often mistaken for an airplane, seaplane, hovercraft or hydrofoil—but the GEV, which flies using the lift generated by its large wings when within about four metres above the surface of the water, is recognised as a distinct technology, originally trialled in the 1970s by the Soviets. The technology has been given a new lease of life thanks to the private backing of the ORION company and interest from countries around the Caspian Sea and elsewhere looking for alternative forms of transport for shipping people and cargoes.
The technology was first trialled by the Soviets in the 1970s. (Image: Soviet navy archive).
The model sold to Iran is the ORION-20 Ekranoplan. It has been in operation in Russia for the past few years.
The ORION-20 has a maximum speed of 180 km/h and can haul one tonne of cargo, plus 12 passengers.
According to a statement from ORION: “A contract for the supply of six vehicles to Iran is being implemented. Of these, three have already been delivered and accepted by the customer.”
It added: “We had to adapt our planes to Iran’s hot and humid climate and also to its rocky coastal areas, which necessitated certain changes to the planes’ original construction.”
The navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in 2009 in a military parade showcased ekranoplans that were supposedly developed indigenously, but there was speculation that the GEVs were actually bought from Russia in an earlier order placed by Iran.