China Orders Giant Russian “Zubr” Hovercraft
Defense News (via Defense Tech) reports that China has just ordered 6 “Zubr” hovercraft from Russia’s Almaz Shipbuilding. The Zubr Class is the world’s largest hovercraft, displacing 555 tonnes. It has over twice the tonnage carrying capacity of the US Navy’s LCACs (150 tons to 70 tons); the ability to carry a number of weapons including 140mm rocket pods, 30mm cannon, or air defense missiles; and a cruising range of around 300 nautical miles. They would be extremely difficult to deploy from another ship in the manner of the USN’s LCACs, but the Zubr’s cruising range and load makes its usefulness in Taiwan invasion scenarios extremely obvious. Vietnam, and other nations with an interest in the Spratly Islands, may also be justifiably nervous. And just to make things really interesting, Defense News believes the Chinese plan to buy them in order to initiate additional production of their own knock-offs.
3 Zubr class hovercraft are currently in service with the Russian Navy, 2 serve in the Ukrainian Navy, and 4 were bought by the Greek Navy from 2001-2004.
2009-2010 update: a deal narrowing the buy to 4 ships was eventually finalized, 2 of them to be built in China.