Russia's Zubr-class: Meet the world's largest hovercraft

Discover the world's largest military hovercraft, the Russian Zubr-class landing craft. Learn about its capabilities, history, and specifications.
Christopher McFadden
The Zubr-class is one hell of a machine.


  • The Zubr-class hovercraft is an amphibious vehicle widely regarded as one of the world's largest and most advanced.
  • Russian Navy primarily uses the Zubr hovercraft for amphibious assault and transport operations.
  • Zubr-class hovercraft is a valuable asset for projecting force and responding to crises in coastal areas.

Air-cushion vehicles (ACVs), also referred to as military hovercrafts, are a special class of amphibious vehicles that have been in use by armed forces all over the globe since the 1960s. These adaptable vehicles can move over obstacles that would halt conventional boats or wheeled vehicles from moving and can move on land, water, and even ice.

Military operations involving amphibious combat, troop and supply transport, disaster relief, and other military and civilian operations have benefited from using military hovercraft. Here we'll look at some notable examples, particularly the Russian Zubr class.

Hold on tight; things are about to get bumpy.

How fast is a naval hovercraft?

A naval hovercraft's speed can change based on its model, size, and use. In general, hovercrafts are known for moving quickly over different surfaces, such as water, sand, and dirt.

For instance, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) of the US Navy is a sort of hovercraft with a range of more than 200 nautical miles (370 km) and a top speed of 50 knots (57.5 mph or 92.6 kph) over water. The Zubr-class LCAC, one of many hovercrafts used by the Russian Navy, has a maximum speed of about 60 knots (69 mph or 111 kph) over calm water.

It's crucial to remember that a hovercraft's speed can fluctuate depending on the specific conditions under which it operates and from external factors like wind and waves.

How does a hovercraft work?

A hovercraft uses an air cushion to lift itself off the ground or water and move over different surfaces with less friction. The fundamental idea behind a hovercraft is that it employs an engine-driven fan to propel air into a skirt around the bottom of the craft. Through the creation of an air cushion, the craft is lifted off the ground and given the freedom to travel in any direction.

When the hovercraft moves forward, the air cushion moves along with it. It is a low-friction barrier between the craft and the ground or water. As a result, the hovercraft can traverse terrains like mud, sand, ice, and shallow water, which would be challenging or unattainable for other kinds of vehicles.

The hovercraft employs a combination of rudders and fans to shift direction and control airflow. Hovercrafts can also travel forward or backward thanks to their propulsion systems, which include engines and propellers.

Overall, a hovercraft is a versatile and useful vehicle in many different applications, from military and search and rescue missions to recreational and commercial uses, thanks to its ability to travel over various terrains and its distinctive way of propulsion.

What are some examples of military hovercraft?

Various militaries around the world operate hovercraft in one form or another. Some of the most notable are as follows:-

  • LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion): The US Navy employs the LCAC, a class of fast amphibious landing vessel. It has a maximum speed of more than 50 knots and can transfer personnel, vehicles, and equipment from ships to land.
  • Zubr class hovercraft: The Russian Navy employs hovercraft of this class ("Zubr" is the Russian name for the European bison) as a landing craft. It can carry up to 500 soldiers, 13 tanks, or 40 armored vehicles and is the biggest military hovercraft in the entire globe. More on this fantastic machine later.
Russia's Zubr-class: Meet the world's largest hovercraft
Mordovia and Yevgeniy Kocheshkov Zubr-class landing in Kaliningrad Oblast.
  • Griffon Hoverwork 8000TD: The British Royal Marines use the Griffon Hoverwork 8000TD as a hovercraft. It can carry up to 70 troops or 10 tons of cargo and has a maximum speed of 45 knots.
  • Chinese 726 Hovercraft: The Chinese military likely employs a number of hovercraft, including the Type-726 LCAC, or Yuyi class, an amphibious hovercraft. With a maximum speed of 60 knots when fully loaded, it has a maximum carrying capacity of 50 tonnes of people and cargo.
  • Nairana Class hovercraft: The Indian Navy employs hovercraft of this class as a landing craft. With a maximum speed of 50 knots, it can carry up to 25 troops or 3 tons of cargo.

How many Zubr class hovercraft are there?

Somewhere in the order of ten Zubr-class hovercraft constructed, the bulk of which are operated by the Russian Navy, according to open sources. It should be noted that military-related material is frequently classified, so the precise number of Zubr-class hovercraft in operation might not be made available to the general public.

According to reports, the Russian Navy was said to be using at least six Zubr-class hovercraft as of an information cutoff date of September 2021. Other nations that have acquired Zubr class craft include Greece, which has one in service, Ukraine, which reportedly got two, and China.

What is Russia's Zubr hovercraft?

The Russian company, Almaz Shipyard in St. Petersburg, developed and produced the Zubr hovercraft, an illustration of a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC). The Russian Navy mainly uses this hovercraft, one of the biggest in the world, for amphibious operations.

It is one of the biggest hovercrafts in the world and is roughly 187 feet (57 meters) long, 73 feet (22.3 meters) wide, and the height from the foot of the hull to the top of the superstructure is about 59 feet (18 meters).

The Zubr-class hovercraft can transport up to 500 soldiers or 130 tonnes of freight, displacing about 555 tonnes. Its large size and capacity make it an effective vehicle for military operations. It can quickly transport troops and equipment from ship to shore, even in challenging environments like ice, mud, and shallow water.

The Zubr-class LCAC can operate in various environments, including ice, mud, and shallow water. It is intended to move personnel, supplies, and vehicles from ship to shore. It has a range of about 300 nautical miles (560 kilometers) and can transport up to 500 soldiers or 130 tonnes of cargo.

Russia's Zubr-class: Meet the world's largest hovercraft
The Zubr-class is the world's biggest hovercraft.

The four gas turbine motors that power the eight propulsion fans on the Zubr-class hovercraft enable it to travel over calm water at up to 60 knots (69 mph or 111 kph). Additionally, it has sophisticated tracking and communication systems and self-defense weapons like machine guns and surface-to-air missiles.

Although the Zubr-class hovercraft is mainly intended for transport and amphibious assault missions, it is also armed for self-defense. Depending on the nation using the craft, the Zubr hovercraft's specific armaments can change but usually include the following:

  • Two close-in weapon systems (CIWS) with a combined maximum range of 4 km each of 30mm AK-630M. These CIWS offer close-range protection from approaching missiles, vessels, and planes.
  • Four surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) from the Strela-3 or Igla-1E family mounted on the superstructure's top. To combat aerial threats like helicopters and planes, these SAMs are used.
  • A maximum of two 14.5mm MTPU machine guns can engage surface targets like enemy vessels or people.

It's essential to remember that the Zubr hovercraft's specific armaments may change depending on the mission and the needs of the nation using the craft. It's also conceivable that military vehicles have additional weapons systems or capabilities that are unknown to the general public because the armaments of such vehicles are frequently classified.

The Zubr hovercraft is regarded as one of the world's most sophisticated and effective hovercrafts and has been sold to several nations, including Greece, China, and Ukraine.

Does the US military use hovercrafts?

Hovercrafts are used by the US military, mainly for transport and amphibious assault missions. The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), a high-speed hovercraft used by the US Navy, can move personnel and supplies from ship to land over various surfaces, including water, mud, and sand. The LCAC can travel at a top speed of 50 knots (57.5 mph or 92.6 kph) over water and transport up to 75 tonnes of cargo or equipment.

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), an amphibious armored vehicle with skirts resembling hovercraft, is another vehicle used by the US military, in this case, the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is developing a new amphibious combat vehicle (ACV) to replace the EFV program, which has been scrapped.

Hovercrafts are generally a valuable and adaptable instrument for the US military, offering a quick and effective way to move personnel and equipment over various terrains and in multiple environments.

And that is your lot for today.

One of the world's biggest and most technologically sophisticated amphibious vehicles, the Zubr-class hovercraft can move people, supplies, and vehicles across a range of surfaces. The Zubr hovercraft is a valuable asset for militaries worldwide because it offers a quick and effective way to project force and react to crises in coastal areas. It has impressive size, speed, and range.

The Zubr-class hovercraft is mainly intended for military use, but it has also been used for commercial transportation and search and rescue missions. The Zubr-class hovercraft will likely continue to play a significant role in meeting the changing requirements of militaries and other organizations as technology develops and new problems are encountered.

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