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02 July 2015
Russia's Vladimir Putin set to unveil new warship 'lighter than AIR'
RUSSIA is set to unveil a top secret spaceship-like aircraft that promises to be "lighter than air".
Work is already underway on the hi-tech 130-metre-long Atlant, which is to be created by merging technology from planes, hovercraft and airships.
Capable of taking off and landing without a runway it will be able to carry 200 military personnel at speeds of up to 105mph.
The futuristic craft is equipped with sophisticated high-precision computer technology, with Russian officials claiming that the $15million (£9.5million) aircraft will be used by the Defence Ministry.
The company behind the 21st century model, Augur RosAeroSystems, say Putin's new toy will be ready for use by the army as early as 2018, according to The Siberian Times.
Mikhail Talesnikov, the vice-president of the firm, said all development work in the first phase of the project would be completed by December.
Mr Talesnikov said: "During the unloading of the weight at the point of arrival, the airship will be able to get heavier via controls without needing ballast.
"In that way it will not get weightless after unloading and will not soar into the stratosphere.
"We also came up with the decision to make the airship harder by using special balancing system. It also has a hard shell. Not a frame faced by cloth, but a composite body.
"It is an innovative solution and this system is unique, nowhere abroad do they have that."
Computer images of the Atlant show its main cabin resembles that of an airship, with an overly large cockpit window and two small wings fixed to the rear of the fuselage.
Designers say it will "combine the best properties of an airship, plane, helicopter and hovercraft" but gave no further details on how the hybrid will be created.
It will also be designed to withstand outside temperatures of -40C, which are typical in the midst of Russian winters.
It is estimated there are around 50 of them in existence around the world, in use by private firms as well as the military.
And manufacturers insist they are cheaper to fly than helicopters and airplanes, can carry more cargo and are capable of reaching remote and hard-to-reach areas.
The Atlant will cost 30 per cent less than Russia's Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter, which can cost up to $25million (£15million).
Two different models will be created: the Atlant-100, which will be 130 metres long and able to fly at 140kph, and the smaller 75-metre-long version, the Atlant-30, which will be able to carry a 16 tonne payload at speeds of about 170kph.
There is speculation the Russian military aims to use the blimp at border points, in order to control drug trafficking.
However it can also be used to move mass numbers of personnel around the country, or into combat zones, more efficiently.
Mass cargo transportation is another possible use for the new airship, and there are hopes that the Atlant could become a cheap method of moving people around Siberia.
Established in 1991 Augur RosAeroSystems is a leading manufacturer of airships and two years ago unveiled the AU-30, which was capable to carrying a payload of half-a-tonne.
But it is slowly making a comeback, almost seven decades after the German Hindenburg aircraft disaster that left 35 people dead.