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    US NAVY TO ORDER UNIQUE AIRCRAFT IN SARATOV

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    MOSCOW, April 23, (RIA Novosti's analyst Nikolai Zherebtsov) - The US Navy Department intends to subsidize the development of an advanced Russian aircraft, which will eventually be extinguishing forest fires on US territory. This UFO-shaped flying machine is currently being designed by the Saratov aviation concern.

    The Saratov aircraft enterprise, which is located in Russia's Volga region, started assembling UFO-shaped flying machines in the 1990s; however, this R&D project was then moth-balled because of financial snags.

    Many aircraft companies all over the world did their best to design similar flying machines. However, Saratov's aircraft designers managed to come with some unusual engineering solutions, also building a flying-saucer mock-up.

    Designers managed to overcome vibration being caused by turbulence flows, after opting for the flying-saucer concept; this problem was also solved with the help of some other know-how. This flying machine is called the EKIP (Russian acronym, Ecology and Progress).

    Moreover, the hovercraft's special coating enhances lift by 40 percent (with the help of turbulence flows). Consequently, the EKIP's payload accounts for only 40-45 percent of its mass; meanwhile the relevant aircraft ratio is 20-25 percent.

    The EKIP boasts some other unique specifications; for example, it can transport 100-ton loads over several thousand km at 500-700 kph and at 8-13-km altitudes. This unique hovercraft can skim along at 160 kph just above the surface.

    Many foreign companies had repeatedly suggested establishing a joint venture together with the Saratov factory in the late 1990s; however, the US naval-aviation research center alone offered acceptable terms, the Saratovskiye Vesti newspaper writes.

    Specific contract terms were not disclosed. According to the aircraft factory's general director Alexander Yermishin, Russia will retain EKIP copyright. The market will be divided, after batch production gets underway, with the United States paying dividends to Russia for every EKIP aircraft, Yermishin added.

    First of all, the US side needs the EKIP remotely piloted aircraft for fighting fires and coping with natural calamities, Yermishin said in conclusion.

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