This is a change to the Jane’s June 2017 report, Russia to resume construction of Zubr hovercraft.
This article declares Russia will not resume production of this large beach-assault hovercraft until 2019. If Russia wants any flexibility in a military invasion, they must have sufficient numbers of Zubr hovercraft with replacements available.
This almost guarantees Russia will not invade for at least two more years with a large body of water option. This perhaps rules out a Russian invasion route from Crimea to Odessa, for instance, for the near future. There are two Zubr vessels in service with the Russian Navy.
Although not stated, this is most likely a part of the 25% reduction in spending announced by Shoygu.
- Russia announces deepest defence budget cuts since 1990s | Jane’s
- So much for the Russian threat: Putin slashes defense spending
- Russia cuts military budget 25% from $65 billion to $48 billion
The sanctions are having an effect on Russia, they are feeling the pinch.
Of note, China purchased four Zubr hovercraft from the plant in Ukraine in 2009 and confirmed in 2013. A July 2015 TASS article makes it unclear if the final two were delivered. Rosoboronexport to supply to China Zubr landing craft ordered in Ukraine. At one point two Zubrs were to be produced in China.
The TASS wording is arrogant, to say the least. The Zubr is a Ukrainian design so design improvements in the Russian production will be a challenge. Perhaps this is contributing to the delay in the opening of the Russian plant.
Most certainly this is a public embarrassment to Russia. It lacks the expertise of the engineers who designed the craft, it lacks production capability, and this may affect Russia’s military strategically. The information effects of this announcement are enormous and should put doubt into many heads. Russia may not be capable of doing what it continues to threaten, at least one option might not be available. A land-only invasion would ease the defensive planning, most certainly for the West and especially Ukraine. Yes, airborne and heliborne insertions would still be available in addition to a conventional armored invasion. This may severely limit a seaborne invasion with only two Zubrs available, however. Zubrs have been called a great target in some news reports.
Russian shipbuilders may resume construction of Project 12322 Zubr small-size air-cushion landing ships only by 2019-2021, but in no way in 2018, as Izvestiya wrote, representatives of Almaz (Saint Petersburg) and More (Feodosiya), the shipyards that formerly built these vessels, told Mil.Today.
Referring to the Russian Navy’s top officers, the newspaper announced the keel-laying of the first Zubr-class ship was scheduled in 2018.
The information about restoration of Zubr shipbuilding project from 2018 was refuted by director general of the Almaz Shipbuilding Firm Leonid Grabovets, being interviewed by Mil.Today. As for him, about four years are needed to kick off serial production.
“We won’t start building Zubr ships soon, mass production of their turbines has not been launched in Russia yet, reduction gears are not available either. Gas turbines and diesel generators were made in Ukraine, then the latter were replaced with Swedish ones. Reduction gears can be supplied by St. Petersburg plant Zvezda“, Grabovets said.
The Almaz shipyard’s director added that at this stage one must wait for test results of the first Russian mass-produced maritime gas turbines. The company is ready to build Zubr-class ships, but the yard will need to employ experts and buy additional equipment, said Grabovets. “If we’re instructed to build these ships, Almaz will find people promptly; we know where to get them. However, that would be upon trials completion, anyway”.
NPO Saturn (Rybinsk, Russia) plans to finish development works on substitution of imported Ukrainian gas turbine engines and complete tests by December 2017. It was promised to start batch production of marine gas turbines in 2018. Project 12322 ships are equipped by powerplant M35 with engines M70FRU2.
According to an insider at More shipyard, the company has not been instructed to resume production of Zubr-type landing craft yet.
“These talks were in 2014, soon after Crimea’s reintegration into Russia, but they never materialized”, said the source. The More shipyards’ officials added that the company possessed both the staff and the production experience of Project 12322 landing ships. “We still advice Chinese shipbuilders, and have not closed the Zubr project in fact”.
The insider said Russian powerplants were heavier than the Ukrainian ones, so the technical project needed alterations. “Design documentation must be also adapted, in total, that will take up to 1.5 years. So, production launch of Zubr ships in 2018 is unreal, wherever it could be”, he concluded.
Izvestiya writes that finding a contractor is the key issue now: “The Navy is about to ask for bids Almaz (St. Petersburg), More (Crimea), Khabarovsk Shipyard, and, possibly, Yantar (Kaliningrad)”. The first two yards did build such ships, Yantar provided repairs, and Khabarovsk Shipyard produced Project 12061 Murena air-cushion boats for South Korea. The newspaper named Almaz as a ‘heavy favorite’.
A source aware of the situation stumbled at the distinct advantage of Almaz over More shipyard. “Sure, Saint Petersburg shipbuilders are excellent professionals, but they haven’t worked on Zubr project for over ten years, while More practically continued works making ships for China”.
Mil.Today failed to get an official comment from the Russian Navy’s shipbuilding department.
Project 12322 Zubr small-size air-cushion landing ship has been developed by the Almaz Central Maritime Design Bureau since 1978. The ship’s prototype was built in 1986 and commissioned by the Soviet Navy two years later.
Displacing 535 tons, the ship is 57 meters long and 20 meters wide, powered by high-temperature gas turbine engines (M35 powerplant). Four propellers 2.5-meter in diameter each provide air cushion. Other three propellers with variable angle of attack 5.5-meter in diameter each set the ship in motion allowing to accelerate up to 70 knots. The ship is capable to accomodate three tanks (up to 150 tons in total) or 10 armored personnel carriers with marines onboard. Landing is possible on any unprepared shore.