Zubr-Class Assault Hovercraft Being Built by China

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Various news outlets report that China has acquired two new Zubr-class assault hovercrafts, making it overall six in its possession. These hovercrafts are built for speed and are capable of carrying tanks and troops and could give China a significant tactical advantage for amphibious assaults. Analysts surmise that the existence of these new units could indicate that China has the blueprints to make its own.

According to Interesting Engineering, these heavyweight hovercrafts are called the Type 728-class and can carry up to three tanks or nearly 400 ground troops. The Zubr-class (Russian for “European Bison”) attack hovercraft was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It is 75 meters long and has a maximum weight of 555 tons. Each one has five gas turbine engines, two providing lift and three driving three huge 5.5-meter diameter rearward-facing propulsion fans. This gives them a top speed of 60 knots, or almost 113 kph on land. These hovercrafts are currently being used by Russia, Greece and China.

The Type 728 can transport up to 130 tons, including two main battle tanks, ten light armored vehicles, or 386 Marines. It is equipped with four portable surface-to-air missile systems, two AK-630 six-barreled, 30-mm Gatling guns, and two rocket launchers capable of bombarding coastal defenses with salvos of 44 140-mm rockets at a time.

After the end of the Cold War, Ukraine inherited shipyards that produced the Zubr, and in 2010 Ukraine agreed to build two Zubrs for China, with Ukrainian supervision. China eventually received all four hovercrafts, but the last one was not delivered until 2018. With just four Type 728s, China had limited capability in an all-out invasion of Taiwan, which seems to be their most logical purpose.

Type-728 hovercrafts can help transport troops from the Chinese mainland to Taipei, and six hovercrafts making two daily trips could land 4,632 Chinese Marines in Taiwan.