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Originally developed by the Soviet Union, these craft were very high-speed military transports, and were mostly based on the shores of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The largest ekranoplan could transport over long distance over 100 tones of cargo, including tanks and artillery. Dmitri Ustinov, Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union supported the development of ekranoplans. Initially it was planned about 120 ekranoplans (A-90 Orlyonok class) to enter military service in the Soviet Navy. This figure was later reduced to less than thirty ekranoplans, to be deployed mainly for the Baltic and the Black Soviet navies as planned. As soon as Marshal Ustinov died in 1985, Marshal Sokolov, the new Minister of Defense effectively stopped the program funding. The only three operational A-90 Orlyonok ekranoplans were built with improved hull design and at a naval base near Kaspiysk one Lun-class ekranoplan remained.
One of the most important design principles is that wing lift is reduced as operating altitude of the ekranoplan is increased, with the use of the mentioned ground effect. It is the same force that makes it impossible for the piece of paper to fall straight down to the floor – instead it glides on an air cushion. Thus in the vertical dimension it is very dynamically stable. Once reaching the speed needed, the ekranoplan was no longer in contact with the water surface, and could move over snow, ice or level land with equal ease, though flight over land, unless the surface were very dependably flat, would have been extremely risky.