The Bartini VVA-14 was designed by Italian emigre Roberto Bartini as a vehicle that could take off and land vertically on any surface – land, sea, ice & snow – by means of its twelve lift engines and inflatable rubber floats – thereby doing away with the need for wheels and a concrete runway.
Two Solovyev D-30M turbofans rated at 8,700 kgp (19,180 lb st) mounted above the centre of the rear fuselage provided forward thrust and twelve Kolesov RD36-35PR lift engines were to be fitted into the deep fuselage section between the floats to confer a VTOL capability.
The unusual configuration was chosen to enable movement in ground effect – although it was not strictly speaking an ekranoplan.
Various roles were proposed for the vehicle – including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Search And Rescue (SAR) and satellite recovery.
As Bartini had no production facilities, the machine was built at the Beriev plant at Taganrog and, because neither the specified lift engines were available, nor the inflatable rubber floats, the machine was initially tested in conventional flight from a runway on 14 September 1972 – by means of a temporary undercarriage comprising the nose and one main gear taken from a Tu-22 with outriggers provided by a Myasischev 3M bomber.
The machine made a number of successful flights in this configuration, before finally being fitted with the rubber floats.
Testing continued - with the floats being inflated and deflated both in the air and on the ground - and it was also demonstrated on its inflated floats on water – although it could not take off from water due to the flexible nature of the rubber floats.
By mid-1975, the VVA-14 had made a total of 107 flights but the lift engines were never made available, so Bartini decided to fit two D-30V booster engines flanking an extended forward fuselage to provide a ground effect cushion.
The rubber floats were replaced with rigid stepped floats with the intention of turning the machine into an ekranoplan – for which it was re-designated 14M1P.
Following the death of Bartini, interest in the machine waned and despite trialling a number of fixes , the 14M1P stubbornly refused to achieve flight in ground effect.