I'm sure many readers remember how surprised Western news media were to learn during the 1980's of the existence of the Lun class ekranoplan, a ground effect vehicle developed from an earlier prototype dubbed by the CIA the 'Caspian Sea Monster'.
Today MD-160 sits derelict in a Caspian Sea shipyard, covered in rust and bird droppings. It's a sad end to what was, for its day, a very high-technology vessel indeed.
However, it looks like the ekranoplan concept is far from dead. A Russian firm has announced plans to build a new, smaller version it calls the A-050.
The Central Design Bureau for Hydrofoil named for Alexeyev has already completed a draft design for the project. Recently, the enterprise announced that it is ready to begin construction on the first 54-ton ekranoplan in the new A-050 series. Georgy Antsev, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Design Bureau for Hydrofoil said, “We are prepared enough to already begin construction of the prototype,” as reported by Interfax-MNA.
According to him, "The A-050 has very good aerodynamics and has been successfully tested in a wind tunnel and on hydraulic canals.”
Georgy Antsev noted that the A-050 ekranoplan will be entirely equipped with Russian avionics and modern navigation and piloting systems developed jointly with NIIAO, which is part of KRET.
He also said that negotiations are already underway with potential customers. According to him, the A-050 is ideal for the Federal Border Service, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Federal Security Service, and Navy for patrolling of territoritories.
The A-050 ekranoplan will have a takeoff weight of 54 tons. It is designed to carry 9 tons of cargo or 100 passengers for a distance of up to 5,000 km at a cruising speed of 350-450 km/h. The ekranoplan may be outfitted with R-195 starting engines similar to the Su-25, and TV7-117SM boosters, as on the Il-114.
There's more at the link.
China has apparently already expressed an interest in buying the A-050. If it does, expect a Chinese copy of the design to emerge within a few years - they've done that with almost all the Russian ships and aircraft they've bought before. If Russia agrees to sell the A-050 to China, I expect them to charge a premium price to take that into account. Still, the A-050 has the speed to cover large areas of ocean quickly, ideal for patrolling or resupply purposes - and China's been building all those artificial island bases in the South China Sea that would benefit from such speed.