“You really have to be motivated to do, but if one took that step, it would have a commercial pay off,” he added.
It was ambitious and would have cost a small fortune to build
However, the project’s start-up costs were staggering—up to $600 million. Additionally, the U.S. military explored purchasing 13 aircraft for a total cost of $15 billion.
The Pentagon was highly intrigued by the DARPA-funded idea because it might potentially be a huge fast response troop carrier.
The vehicle’s capacity was projected to be 32 helicopters, 20 tanks, four landing craft, and about 2,000 soldiers.
“We’ve never built anything on this scale”, program manager Lt. Col. Michael F. Francis told the Los Angeles Times. The Wingship might be transported into disaster areas as a sizable flying hospital.
Hooker also noted that “the stern of the ship opens up, and the hospital could be rolled on or off.”
“The upper level would house the infirmary, and below would be the operating room and other facilities,” he told the LA Times.
What is the ‘ground effect’?
For fixed-wing aircraft, the reduced aerodynamic drag that an airplane’s wings produce while it is near a fixed surface is known as the “ground effect”. When in “ground effect” during takeoff, reduced drag might lead the airplane to “float” while traveling slower than the advised climb speed.
The aircraft will then accelerate in ground effect as the pilot flies close to the runway until a safe climb speed is obtained. Designers were mesmerized by ground effect vehicles, particularly in the Soviet Union, but the idea was never fully realized outside the drawing board.
The so-called “Caspian Sea Monster” was one of the huge wingships the Russians intended to construct.
However, the persistent economic issues that ultimately resulted in the Soviet Union’s demise grounded the project. Sadly, DARPA canceled the billion-dollar project in the 1990s, so the genuinely enormous Aerocon never got to hurtle over the world’s oceans.