Almaz Shipbuilding in St Petersburg in Russia is the manufacturer of the Zubr Class air cushion landing craft. The Russian Navy has had three Almaz-built Zubr Class ships in service since 1988.
The Greek Navy also uses these warships, and in 2001, three ships were put into service. In addition to Kefallonia (L180), which was acquired from the Russian Navy and modified, Ithaki (L181) was finished by the Ukrainian shipyard Morye and Zakynthos (L183) was built from the ground up by Almaz. The fourth ship was also built by Almaz and named Kerkira, was launched in June 2004, and put into service in January 2005.
China also has four Zubr-class ships in its fleet, two delivered from Ukraine, and the other two built in China. According to Guinness World Records, the Zubr Class hovercraft is the world’s largest hovercraft with 57 m (187 ft) long, 22.3 m (73.1 ft).
Let’s find out what this massive hovercraft is used for, and what makes it so special.
Internal & External Design
Rugged, robust, and seaworthy, the hull’s floating structure is square in shape. It is divided into three different operational sections by two longitudinal bulkheads.
Armored vehicles are landed in the middle section, which has taxi tracks along with loading and unloading ramps. Auxiliary power plants, troop compartments, staff housing, life support, and NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection are all placed in the other two outer sections.
Heating and cooling systems are provided in the crew’s living quarters as well as in the soldiers’ compartments. Thermal and sound insulation coatings and vibration isolation structures are also installed in these regions.
In order to protect the crew and troops from ammunition and explosive components, a light armor plate has been installed onboard the ship.
Three T-80B light tanks, eight BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles, ten BTR-70 armored personnel carriers, or 360 fully equipped landing forces may be transported on Zubr.
It has a displacement of 340 tons as a light load, 415 as a normal load, and 555 as a full load. There are two ramps on the ship, one at the bow and one at the stern, allowing rapid troop and weapon deployment.
The ship has two stabilized multiple rocket launchers, four Igla-1M portable air defense missile systems, and two AK-630 30mm automatic rifle mounts.
The AK-630 artillery system is also equipped in the hovercraft to counter threats, including sea-skimming anti-ship missiles, small sea targets, lightly armored coastal targets, and floating mines. A six-barrel automatic type AO-18 that can fire 5,000 rounds per minute at full power is also available onboard.
In addition to two navigation radars, the Zubr has gyrocompass, magnetic, compass, drift log, Decca receiver, radio direction finder, master gyroscope, and day/night vision drift sight.
The Power House
With its three-ring shrouds, which house the ship’s air propellers, Zubr stands out in a crowd of ships. Thanks to its four-bladed propellers, the ship can reach a peak speed of 60 knots.
The air-cushion blowers and air propellers are powered by high-temperature gas turbine engines. The air cushion is generated by four NO-10 blowers with 2.5m diameter axial working wheels.
The ship’s propulsion system is powered by three 5.5m-diameter air propellers with four-bladed, reversible, variable-pitch blades. In order to protect the propellers, ring shrouds are used.
There are five Kuznetsov engines onboard the Zubr, two of which are used to provide the necessary lift, and the remaining three are employed as propellers; they all run on gasoline. The combined output of these systems is up to 11,836 hp.
The three propulsion engines control four variable-pitch propeller assemblies. In ideal conditions, the Zubr can attain a maximum speed of 40 mph, but it can even exceed 60 knots under some circumstances, and it has a range of 300 miles.
Watch this video to see the Zubr in action: