Lockheed Martin’s Surface Effect Aircraft (SEA)


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1 April 2006
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"Another design that some analysts feel may have merit is Lockheed Martin’s Surface Effect Aircraft (SEA). It is primarily a seaplane, but uses two technologies to enhance its capabilities. The concept uses wing-inground effect technology, as well as, surface effect ship principles. The WIG technology would assist in increasing its range capability by approximately 25% if utilized. The surface effect ship technology would assist in getting the vehicle out of the water faster, thus shortening the takeoff distance and lessening propulsion requirements. Another innovation for the SEA is a modular concept. The designers believe that different modules could be sed depending on the type of mission. The two different examples used were a Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Launcher Module and a Cargo Module. The SEA is designed to carry the same payload as a C-5, about 270,000 pounds, with a range of 7,500 to 10,000 nautical miles depending on whether it is operating in or out of surface effect. It has an operational goal of 300 - 400 knots at less than 200 feet, but can also fly at normal deployment altitudes. Lockheed Martin also believes that the design may have potential for signature reduction, or “stealth”. Critics of the seaplane have said that they require more propulsion than similarly sized conventional aircraft to takeoff. There was also a concern in the takeoff and landing phase due to floating debris.

Timeframe of project is 2003-2005


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At the risk of sounding flippant, all I can think of is-

"Thunderbirds are go!" ;D

USAF will not want it because it is a boat. The USN will not want it because it is not their mission. USA will not want it because it is all of the above, and, do you know how many infantry battalions you could afford for a year for the cost of just one of those!!

Perhaps a consortium of cargo carriers and Japanese car manufactures would be a more viable business model.

Apologies, I'm feeling particularly cynical this morning.
We can freely exchange 'will' in your sentences with 'did'...as well they did not want ULTRA/Pelican and Walrus.
Finally working through this stack of CDs by my desk and found this view of the SEA from 2002...
From a report by K. V. Rozhdestvensky in Progress in Aerospace Sciences #42 (2006):

In recent years, Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems investigated the development of what they call Sea-Based Aircraft. LMAS call for a move to hybrid aircraft compliant with a modern doctrine of rapidly moving smaller and lighter forces anywhere in the world, or standoff power projection on demand anywhere in the world. The LMAS search for appropriate hybrid solutions resulted in a family of designs. These include: seaplanes, floatplanes and WIG-like combined surface aircraft—SEA.

LMAS concludes SEA is an emerging more effective alternative to WIG craft.

Whereas the latter
  • is a ship that flies (specifically, the Russian Ekranoplans),
  • has little altitude or maneuvering capability,
  • is sea-restricted,
  • has long takeoff roll,
  • should be very large for the mission objectives,
  • has no signature reduction capacity

the former
  • is an aircraft which operates on water,
  • has aircraft altitude capability,
  • has shorter takeoff roll than pure WIG aircraft,
  • may be shaped for signature reduction,
  • has reduced risk due to rogue waves and surface obstacles.

SEA combines multiple surface effect technologies in a Sea-Based Mobility Hybrid Aircraft design—WIG, seaplane and hydroplane hull shaping, surface effect ship hull shaping, ram and power-augmented lift, powered circulation lift and ski ship. According to LMAS, such a technology is viable with the current aircraft technology, and would provide speeds up to 400 knots and a global range with 400 tons of payload.


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