In the 1970s the Soviet Union developed the VVA-14, a vertical take-off amphibious aircraft which could take off from water and fly at high speed over long distances but also to fly just above the sea surface using what is known as the “ground effect”. It was designed by Italian-born designer Robert Bartini in answer to a perceived requirement to destroy United States Navy Polaris missile submarines.
Straight Out Of Star Wars! The Soviet VVA-14
After extensive research, including the development of the small prototype Be-1 wing in ground effect aircraft, the first VVA-14 prototype was completed in 1972. Its first flight was from a conventional runway on September 4, 1972.
In 1974 the inflatable pontoons were installed, though their operation caused many problems. Flotation and water taxi tests followed, culminating in the start of flight testing of the amphibious aircraft on 11 June 1975.
The inflatable pontoons were later replaced by rigid pontoons, while the fuselage was lengthened and the starting engines added. This incarnation was given the designation 14M1P. However, the bureau supplying the intended battery of 12 RD-36-35PR lift engines did not deliver, and this made VTOL testing impossible.
The last survivor
After Bartini’s death in 1974, the project slowed and eventually drew to a close, the aircraft having conducted 107 flights, with a total flight time of 103 hours. The only remaining VVA-14, No. 19172, was retired to the Russian Federation Central Air Force Museum, Monino in 1987. The aircraft still resides at the museum in a dismantled state, where it carries the number ‘10687’ and ‘Aeroflot’.
Partial remnants of the VVA-14, a ground effect in aircraft, in Monino airfield, Moscow – Wikipedia