The last flight of the world’s only serial transport/assault ground effect vehicle (GEV) A-90 Orlenok (tail number 26) was performed at 11th airbase of Caspian fleet of Russian navy in autumn 1993, Lenta.ru reports.
The flight was performed in the presence of representatives of Pentagon, CIA, NASA and DARPA. Moreover, US aerospace designer Burt Rutan also witnessed the flight.
Orlenok was developed in late 1960s by the Central Design Bureau named after Alexeev. It performed its maiden flight in 1972. The GEV is classified as a seacraft. It is capable of gliding above ground or water surface at an altitude of up to 30 meters (the altitude may increase depending on the GEV’s dimensions) using the ground effect: the lift is generated by the approach flow, which builds up pressure under the GEV.
Orlenok was intended for transporting troops for a distance of up to 1500 km. The GEV was able to glide under conditions of wave height of 2 meters; its maximum speed was 500 km/h. The boarding was carried out using side-opening nose. The vehicle was able to transport up to 200 soldiers in full gear and two armored infantry vehicles (or infantry combat vehicles). The GEV Orlenok was put into service by the USSR navy in 1979.
A total of 5 А-90s were built: the last one (tail number 26) was taken out of service in 2007. The Border Guard Service of Russia said in early 2012 that it intends to resume the production of the GEVs in Petrozavodsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Zhukovsky. Russian Ministry of Defense also said earlier that it is necessary to resume the production of these vehicles. However, the development of GEVs has not been included in the State Arms Program for the period until 2020.