During the Cold War, the Soviets exploited the ground effect phenomenon by creating some of the largest and fastest vehicles of the time called “Ekranoplans.” They were not quite airplanes or hovercraft but something else in between known as Ground Effect Vehicles (GEVs).
Although the technology already existed, they took it to the next level by scaling these vehicles to three-quarters of a football field, weighing more than 350 tons and traveling at speeds beyond 400 miles per hour.
The technology was reportedly used from 1987 to the late 1990s. There was a transport version, a battle version, and even a hospital version of the Ekranoplan. The last of its kind was 90 percent complete when funding ran out. It now sits unused at a naval station in Kaspiysk off the Caspian Sea.
Today, the ground effect technology is making a come back in small hobby vehicles and glorified water taxis. GEVs are fuel and power efficient and become even more economical as they get bigger, according to the video below. “In theory, wing in ground effect works better as the craft gets bigger, so a really big craft would be very, very efficient. That’s where the economics starts to make sense and you can start to build a business out of it.”
This video shows how ground effect technology is making a comeback decades since the Cold War.
YouTube, Science Channel