VVA-14: The 14-engined Soviet aircraft designed to take out US subs

(CNN) — The only surviving prototype of this unusual plane now sits dilapidated in a field close to Moscow, but it was the moment the hope of the Soviet Union towards US submarine assaults.

The Bartini Beriev VVA-14 — the letters are an acronym for “vertical acquire-off amphibious aircraft” and 14 was the variety of engines — was developed to choose off from everywhere devoid of a runway and to be able of sustained flight just earlier mentioned the h2o area.

Built in the 1960s, the plane was a response to the Polaris ballistic missiles. The United States released them in 1961 on its submarine fleet as component of its nuclear deterrent. In the mind of its designer, Robert Bartini, the amphibious VVA-14 would be the perfect equipment to look for and demolish the missile-carrying submarines.

The system, even so, failed to pan out. Only two of the proposed 3 prototypes were being ever created, and only just one was at any time flown. When Bartini died, in 1974, the job died with him, and the second prototype was dismantled.

The initially, generally intact, was despatched in 1987 to the Central Air Force Museum around Moscow, but a thing went completely wrong with the delivery. The aircraft was looted and broken, and it hasn’t been fixed due to the fact.

Three-headed dragon

The VVA-14 was desiged to acquire off vertically from h2o or land.

Courtesy Andrii Salnikov

“The VVA-14 was a flying boat that was intended to take off from drinking water or land vertically, and then fly like a common plane at altitude,” says Andrii Sovenko, a Soviet aviation historian. In 2005, Sovenko fulfilled Nikolai Pogorelov, the deputy of Robert Bartini for the duration of the structure section of the plane.

“According to Pogorelov, Bartini was a visionary who had an uncommon thoughts and character. It seemed that he was not from his time, but from some other period — someone even identified as him an alien. Without a question, Bartini has still left a mark in Soviet plane building. On the other hand, he turned well-known predominantly for his strategies and principles, and only a number of of individuals essentially grew to become actuality,” states Sovenko.

Bartini, who left his residence in Italy for the Soviet Union in 1923 soon after the increase of the Fascists, had envisaged a number of distinctive versions of the VVA-14, like just one with inflatable pontoons to land on h2o and one more with folding wings that could be operated from ships at sea.

The initially prototype took to the air in 1972. It was afterwards equipped with the pontoons and tested afloat.

“This aircraft did not have lifting engines or any products for browsing for submarines. It was intended only for researching the qualities of horizontal flight and screening the aircraft programs. In total, from 1972 to 1975, it carried out 107 flights with about 103 flight hrs,” claims Sovenko.

The odd appears to be gained it the nickname Zmei Gorynich, after a dragon from Russian people tales. “When searching at it from the ground, the VVA-14 caused understandable associations with Zmei Gorynych: she also had, as it were being, three heads, as very well as comparatively smaller wings,” reported Sovenko.

A brief second daily life

VVA 14 airplane b&w-3

The Soviet armed service abandoned the undertaking right after they realized its success would be constrained.

Courtesy Andrii Salnikov

The second prototype was intended to get the engines for vertical acquire off, but they were hardly ever fitted to the pretty much done aircraft, mainly because a appropriate engine kind was never made. This doomed the venture, and the plane was disassembled.

Bartini attempted to pump new lifestyle into the VVA-14 by turning into an ekranoplan, a type of plane that works by using ground result to glide near to a area like h2o at substantial speed like a hovercraft does. The ensuing exams, performed just after Bartini’s demise, informed the advancement of other this kind of aircraft, making the USSR the undisputed chief in the subject.

Regardless of this coda, having said that, the job was out of steam.

“I feel the Soviet military services incredibly immediately realized that the performance of the VVA-14 as an anti-submarine aircraft would have been lower. It could only have a quite smaller variety of missiles and the complex difficulties of making such an unconventional car or truck have been pretty huge. Eventually, the navy relied on additional standard plane for the job,” suggests Sovenko.

Following it was retired, the authentic prototype was transferred by barge from Taganrog in southern Russia, the place it had been crafted and tested, to a tiny town near Moscow, Lytkarino. Unloaded ashore, it was still left unattended and partly destroyed and dismantled.

Later transported via helicopter to nearby Monino at the Central Air Pressure Museum, the plane stays terribly damaged to this working day.

“Certainly, some fragments of the unique prototype have been in Monino for 33 decades, in the kind of scrap metallic. Why the museum administration will not choose measures to restore this quite appealing aircraft, I don’t know,” states Sovenko.

Missing elements

VVA 14 airplane b&w-2

Russia’s Central Air Pressure Museum says the charge of restoring the plane would be about $1.2 million

Courtesy Andrii Salnikov

The Central Air Pressure Museum is mainly open up air, so much like the other plane in its collection — the largest in the globe for Soviet planes — the VVA-14 has been sitting down outside. Tucked away in a peripheral area of the show, it can be conspicuously missing its wings.

Pieces of them and of the airframe look to be lying next to it, as can be observed on Google Maps.
Alexander Zarubetsky, the museum’s director, verified to CNN Travel that a number of elements of the plane are lacking.

“In 2012, associates from the Taganrog aircraft plant, in which the VVA-14 was developed, promised to aid in the look for for spare elements for the VVA-14, but the lack of funding did not let these needs to be understood,” he states.

He adds that, if funding ended up to be secured, the value of restoration would be about $1.2 million, and that it would consider concerning a single and two yrs if performed by aviation professionals straight at the museum.

If the VVA-14 experienced completely been accomplished and analyzed, Sovenko states, it would have been a certainly special aircraft.

“It could have taken off and landed equally horizontally and vertically, and on both land and on water. It could have stayed afloat for a lengthy time as a ship and conducted anti-submarine warfare. And of training course, it could have flown like a frequent plane also,” he says.

“This versatility was its most unusual and remarkable excellent. Even so, the VVA-14 never ever truly reached its complete potential.”

Inna Gavruseva contributed to this report

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