The USA wants to build a new ground effect vehicle for long-distance troop and vehicle transport. Unlike the “Caspian Sea Monster”, however, the “Liberty Lifter” is said to be significantly more versatile.

When agents of the US secret service looked at satellite photos of the Caspian Sea in 1967, they discovered a huge vehicle whose size and design they could not do anything with – the “Caspian Sea Monster” was born. But actually it was the so-called Ekranoplan “KM”, a gigantic ground effect vehicle for the transport of soldiers and tanks. Such a vehicle, called “Liberty Lifter”, is now also being planned by an agency of the US Department of Defense (Darpa).

A soldier taxi with a range of 7500 kilometers

A ground effect vehicle is a type of aircraft that – to put it simply – glides on an air cushion and moves close to the ground. This air cushion is created by the eponymous ground effect. Essentially, this is stagnant air between the wings and the ground, giving the vehicle lift and using the wings far more effectively than an airplane would in flight.

Like the Russian Ekranoplan, the “Liberty Lifter” is intended to be used to transport soldiers, tanks and equipment over long distances. Because a ground effect vehicle is significantly faster than a ship, but can load more than an airplane and is cheaper to operate. Additionally, the army does not require a port or airfield for deployment.

Unlike the “Caspian Sea Monster”, the Darpa claims that the “Liberty Lifter” can also move like a normal airplane at an altitude of up to 3 kilometers. This would be particularly important if the location changes quickly. The Russian “KM” was practically trapped in its territory.

The military have high requirements for the final design for the American sea monster. In addition to the properties mentioned, the “Liberty Lifter” should also ensure safe travel on rough seas and enable a range of up to 7500 kilometers. That roughly corresponds to the distance from New York to Spitsbergen. In addition, the lifter should be able to stay at sea for weeks and cost little.

Also read: Russia’s last Ekranoplan becomes a museum piece

Significantly smaller than the Russian monster

The US authorities state that the planned payload is around 100 tons. That is significantly less than the Russian giant was able to move at the time. The “Caspian Sea Monster” was about 100 meters long and weighed 550 tons when fully loaded – 300 tons of which was payload. The speed of the ekranoplan was up to 500 kilometers per hour. The drive was provided by ten jet engines, eight of which were mainly required for the start and then switched off. The range was 1500 kilometers.

The Russian “KM” never entered service, it was lost in an accident in 1980. A slightly smaller successor, the MD-160, now lies abandoned on the beach in the Russian city of Derbent and is to become part of a military amusement park. On current satellite images, even the smaller monster can be used to understand why the US secret service agents couldn’t explain what they saw in 1967.

The American “Liberty Lifter” is scheduled to race across the world’s oceans by 2027 at the latest.

Those: “Darpa”, “Newatlas”