Ground effect vehicles (GEVs) are not a new invention. In the Soviet Union, Wing In Ground-effect (WIG) based vehicles, which sit on a cushion of air created by aerodynamics rather than by an engine, had been under development for decades. One of the most ambitious projects was the “Lun” – a 240ft (73.8 meters) missile launcher ekranoplane with a range of 3000km (1620 nm) and 8 huge NK-87 turbofan engines.
The fall of the Soviet Union marked the end of many of the WIG projects. However, they resurfaced again several years later in the West, in the form of small, homemade ground-effect planes. Universal Hovercraft has been supplying hovercraft plans, kits, and parts for years, and the UH-19XRW is a natural step forward towards a more robust design.
Although currently the UH-19XRW is not on the market for recreational purposes, it may be ideal for military use. Because the vehicle flies only several feet above ground, Special Forces could be inserted into a war zone undetected. Unlike a normal hovercraft that is limited to fairly smooth terrain, the UH-19XRW can operate over rugged terrain and move at relatively high speeds (up to 55mph / 90km/h). Another option is an unmanned version of the UH-19XRW, which could carry sensors and weapons in patrol or attack modes utilizing its extended range, high speed and low signature to surprise the enemy.
TFOT recently covered two other unique ships. The SeaPhantom, designed by the Florida based International Maritime Flight Dynamics Company, is a prototype vessel based on NASA’s Lifting-Body Airfoil design. The SeaPhantom uses special hydrodynamic lifting surfaces, which provide the controller with smooth sailing in variable sea conditions. This ship has already attracted the U.S. Navy’s attention as a fast and highly maneuverable platform for SEAL teams. A different vessel that has also attracted military interest is M Ship’s M80 Stiletto craft, which is suitable for shallow water operations.