New hovercraft makes debut in naval drill

Updated: 2015-07-23 07:38

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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The People's Liberation Army navy gave a Ukraine-made Zubr-class hovercraft its debut during a recent drill, indicating the Chinese navy has achieved a stronger landing capability.

In the landing exercise carried out in mid-July by a squadron under the PLA navy's South Sea Fleet, the assault force sent tens of amphibious combat vehicles to approach the landing site. However, the vehicles were stopped by the defending force using "effective measures", China Central Television reported.

The assault force then dispatched several "new-type" hovercraft, which successfully broke the defense and made the landing, the State broadcaster said, noting this is the first time the new craft had taken part in a drill.

The craft have strong carrying capacity, fast speed and a long range, according to CCTV.

PLA Daily said the drill accomplished its goal of testing combined landing tactics and maneuvers.

China began using hovercraft in its navy in the mid-1990s and has developed a small family of such craft. However, the domestically developed models have limited operational capabilities because of their small size and short range.

China's first Zubr LCAC hovercraft was built at the Feodosiya Shipbuilding Company in Ukraine and adapted to Chinese needs, according to a report on China Radio International.

The Zubr-class of military hovercraft is the world's largest. It is designed to sealift landing assault units, as well as to transport and plant mines, the CRI report said.

Development of Zubr landing ships started in the former Soviet Union in 1978, and the first serial ship joined the Soviet navy in 1988. It can carry three main battle tanks with an overall weight of 150 tons or 10 armored personnel carriers weighing up to 131 tons plus 140 marines, or eight infantry fighting vehicles weighing up to 115 tons. If not equipped with armor, Zubr is capable of carrying 366 men, CRI reported.

The introduction of the Zubr-class craft would substantially improve the PLA navy's amphibious combat capability, according to Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

"With the craft's fast speed and strong firepower, it can ferry a large landing force to the shore within a short period, without suffering serious casualties or being delayed by naval mines or bad coastal conditions," he said.

"Its deployment enhances the PLA navy's ability to rapidly project power at sea, strengthening the nation's capability to safeguard its maritime interests."

 New hovercraft makes debut in naval drill

Kerkyra, a Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft, moors in St. Petersburg in June 2004. Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

(China Daily 07/23/2015 page3)