In 1967, during one of the tensest periods of the Cold War, a US satellite captured images of a giant object that was approximately 325 feet long.
Initially, the US thought it was some kind of rig or platform, but further surveillance shows that it was a Soviet aircraft unlike anything seen in the West.
An Unlikely Beast
Dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster by the Americans, this Soviet aircraft was a prototype of an ekronoplan, a hybrid vessel and aircraft engines designed to fly as quickly, and as close to the sea surface as possible.
Despite its length and massive 500,000-pound weight, the aircraft still proved to be extremely effective.
In fact, during initial tests, it could reach speeds of over 460 miles an hour.
In 1967, the West found out about the top-secret project. The discovery came at the height of the Cold War, deeply concerning the CIA.
As a result, the service set up a dedicated task force that developed the first purpose-built unmanned drone under Project Aquiline.
Fall From Grace
Despite the plane’s outstanding performance, the support behind the project soon faded away after Leonid Brezhnev succeeded Nikita Khrushchev as the leader of the Soviet Union. He severely cut the program’s funding.
Due to a pilot error in a test flight, the plane suffered irreparable damage, and because it’s a massive plane Russian engineers found it impossible to retrieve the prototype. Thus, the Caspian Sea Monster was left to float and rot in the ocean after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was also during this time that the United States Intelligence found out that the secret aircraft was in fact a large ekranoplan.