Special Report

Russia Has the Fastest Warship in the World

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When Americans think of fast marine vessels, they probably imagine smaller, light crafts, such as sports catamarans. Larger ships usually travel at much lower speeds. The fastest cruise ship can travel at a maximum speed of 30 knots, or 34 miles per hour – nearly the same speed as an American aircraft carrier. When it comes to military vessels, the Soviet Union built the fastest warship in the world three decades ago. At full speed, it would leave a U.S. carrier or cruise ship in its wake.

The fastest warship in history was the A-90 Orlyonok – an ekranoplan, or ground effect vehicle, which is a hybrid of sorts between airplane and ship. Built by the Soviet Union, it went out of service in the 1990s. It had a top speed of over 245 miles per hour, according to educational content outlet Owlcation

The A-90 was the most plane-like of the ekranoplans, which use a phenomenon known as ground effect to hit high speeds just a few feet above the water’s surface. This plane-boat crossbreed could reach altitudes of nearly 10,000 feet (helpful for avoiding collisions with other vessels). It was used to rapidly shuttle Russian troops and supplies across the Caspian and Black seas. (These are the most common ships and submarines in the Russian navy.)

There is a huge gulf between the fastest warship ever built and the second fastest, which is Abu Dhabi’s Special Forces Interceptor WP-18. It has a top speed of 74 miles an hour. The ship is currently in production. (Here are the 19 ships and submarines in U.S. naval fleet.)

Fast warships have many uses. From small and stealthy submarine hunters to wave-slicing interceptors, these boats (past and present) maximize their ability to move quickly while maintaining operational defensive and offensive capabilities. Some of these ships are enveloped with radar-absorbent material that greatly reduces their chances of showing up as a blip on an enemy’s radar screen. Others can lob missiles at water and coastal targets.

See 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the 10 fastest warships in the world.

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