The VVA-14 ground-effect plane dreamed of world domination for the Soviet Union

During the 60s Robert Bartini, Italian aeronautical engineer, scientist and member of the Communist Party, born in Kanjiza, Serbia, answered the call of the need of the Soviet Union to create a new era for the country, mainly in the transportation and industrial sectors of the growing company. But I think it’s pretty obvious that Bartini worked for the Russian army.

In the service of Mother Russia, Bartini rose to prominence as a master in the art of aeronautical engineering and even created the first widebody aircraft, the Bartini T-117. Over the years, his experiences and knowledge led to a vehicle dubbed the VVA-14. What makes the VVA-14 is the fact that it exploits the ground effect.

If you’ve never heard of ground effect, it’s a fairly simple physical effect that appears when fixed-wing aircraft fly near ground level, mostly water surfaces, as they provide better transmission of the effect due to a lack of obstacles on the surface.

This happens because the natural airflow around the fenders is disrupted due to the ground surface, and instead of going around the fender and dragging, air is trapped between the vehicle and the ground. and is compressed, creating an air pocket under the vehicle. The result? Increased lift and decreased drag, and greater efficiency.

One of the main differences between commercial airplanes and ground effects is size and weight. To further exploit the ground effect, the weight of a vehicle keeps the compressed air under the fuselage, which leads to a successful effect.

In order to make the most of this effect, Bartini modified all aspects of the VVA-14, right down to the wing tips, which featured winglets at the bottom. The first and most important aspect is the shape of the body. To create a nice pocket of compressed air, the VVA is built with an extra-large body that includes two fuselage compartments that each have their own tail at the rear. It is these two fuselages that help compress the air even more than standard airplanes.

Now, like any vehicle or military device, versatility is key. Originally designed to be a spearfishing machine for the Soviet Union, Bartini also designed the VVA-14 to be capable of a diverse range of takeoff and landing styles, including vertical takeoff and landing. ; required 12 lift motors which were never integrated into the prototype, so the tests were carried out with conventional landing and take-off sequences.

For possible tests, two bypass turbojets allowed the VVA-14 to reach a top speed of 760 km / h (472 mph) and reach an altitude of 33,000 feet (10,058 m). But it was these lift motors that made the whole machine as versatile as it was meant to be.

As it was originally intended to find and destroy submarines, the VVA-14 was to be equipped with magnetic anomaly detection systems and more than two tons of boom booms including torpedoes and depth charges.

Funny enough, construction was slow and the VVA-14 saw its first test flight in 1972. All the submarines were probably long gone. The final vehicle was to be developed in three subsequent stages, the third stage involving the equipment of firepower.

But the lift motors never reached the machine, so the tests could not continue according to the original idea, which led Bartini to modify the final product to a version that was not capable of take-off, which ultimately turned out to be a problem. Bartini died in 1974 and would never see his machines working at full capacity, and the Soviet Union abandoned the project of more modern planes and fighters.

Nonetheless, the VVA-14 worked and was able to optimize ground effect 8m (26ft) above the ground surface and supported Bartini’s ideas and designs, ultimately leading to other designs. intended to go faster, further and more, but all were based on ground effect. One of them was a huge aircraft carrier for the Soviet Navy. I wonder how long it will be before someone builds a modern vehicle that uses ground effect.

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