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Zubr LCAC - Program

Zubr is the world’s largest class of hovercraft. The Chinese navy placed an order for four craft at a reported cost of $315 million US dollars. Two were built by the Feodosiya Shipbuilding Company, and a second pair of vessels will be built in China under the supervision of Ukrainian technicians. The Zubr-class LCAC is a class of air-cushioned landing craft of Ukrainian design. This class of military hovercraft is the world's largest hovercraft. It is designed to sealift landing assault units from equipped/non-equipped vessels to non-equipped shores, as well as to transport and plant mines.

Development of Zubr landing ships started in the former Soviet Union in 1978, and the first serial ship joined the Soviet navy in 1988. There were nine vessels of this class in active service around the world used by Russia, Ukraine and Greece. When Greece purchased four Zubr class hovercraft, it was the first time a Russian-built ship was owned by the navy of a NATO member. The hovercraft turned out to be more expensive to maintain than expected, and Greece retired two of them early so the parts could be used to keep the other two in service.

China's first Zubr LCAC hovercraft was built at the Feodosiya Shipbuilding Company in the Ukraine and adapted to Chinese needs so that no military weapons and electrical systems were installed. The first of four (LCAC) which was built for China was badly damaged in a construction accident in 2011. A cargo ship named HHL New York carries a Zubr-class LCAC hovercraft for the Chinese navy on the Zhujiang River in Guangzhou, capital city of south China's Guangzhou Province on Friday, May, 24, 2013. After a month long sea journey, an air-cushioned landing craft, Zubr-class LCAC built for the Chinese navy was delivered at Guangzhou, the capital city of south China's Guangzhou Provinc.

Ukraine turned over the second Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft to China on 28 February 2014. China paid an estimated USD $80 million for each Zubr class LCAC. The first LCAC handed over in 2013 had already entered service in China.

By early 2014 pictures of well-known military fora showed that at least two "Zubr" were ready to enter service and that they should join the Chinese navy in the near future. After the appearance of the first imported "Bison", and with the near completion of the first building in China and the arrival of a second imported ship, it was already an embryo unit that was born.

The situation around Crimea risked disrupting the largest Ukrainian-Chinese warship building contract worth around $350 million, a source in the Ukrainian defense sector told Interfax 04 April 2014. Due to the events in Crimea, the implementation of the contract for construction of small Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) at the facilities of FSK More in Feodosia for China remains an open question, the source said.

"Despite the fact that Ukraine has successfully performed its part of the contract for construction of the first two ships at the facilities of FSK More, and has already handed them over to the customer, the question of China's payment for the second small LCAC shipped to China in early March remains open," the source said. "At the same time, the force-majeure will require additional agreements with China and, probably, with Russia too, over the format of further cooperation under the contract that includes construction of two more small LCACs in China with participation of Ukrainian specialists," the source said.

"Being a reliable international-cooperation entity in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, Ukraine confirms its obligations under the contract," the source said. "Regrettably, their performance is currently compounded" by the situation around Crimea, he said.

The People's Liberation Army navy gave a Ukraine-made Zubr-class hovercraft its debut during a drill in mid-2015, indicating the Chinese navy had 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 had limited operational capabilities because of their small size and short range. A Zubr-class landing craft air cushion (LCAC) conducted beach-head landings during a joint training exercise organized by a landing ship flotilla of the South China Sea Fleet under the PLA Navy at an undisclosed sea area on April 20, 2017.

According to some reports, the number of Zubr hovercraft built by Ukraine for China was expected to be 30.

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Page last modified: 09-10-2019 10:22:03 ZULU