In my years at University I have often been mocked and laughed at when I said that Ekranoplans or Ground Effect Machines were a very possible future means of transport.
Years passed and since the Russians had dropped their research program at the end of the Cold War, nothing significant has really happened. A lot of projects were started, prototypes made, but nothing eventuated. Not because the technology was faulty, but because the people running these projects were Engineers with no idea of real life Marketing, or they were “Entrepeneurs” that were out for a quick buck and sucked the life out of the Project.
At the moment I’d say there are two serious contenders in the Ground Effect Market:
Korean Development: http://cnsamt.com/eng/
German Development: http://www.airfoil-development.com/
But then today I read that the Russion Government want a new fleet of the craft by 2012!
Source: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.faqt.nl%2Ftechnologie%2Fcomeback-monster-van-de-kaspische-zee%2F&sl=nl&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8 (Source translated from Dutch)
Not sure if the site is right as i cannot find any other news references to this fact..
Let’s hope that this will breathe new life into Ground Effect Machines, or as I have dubbed them, the SkimMachines.. It’s be a very exciting feeling to cruise a mtre above the water surface at hundreds of kilometres an hour!!
UPDATE: The claim on the Dutch website seems to stack up as this article also points to the interfax Press Release that the Russians have revived the Ekranoplan Development.