Those who walked along the coast of Kaliningrad a few days ago, a Russian region bathed by the Baltic and nestled between Poland and Lithuania, may have felt the same as a ‘Call of Duty’ battle. During a half training routine exercise half warning to NATO, Sweden and Finland, the Kremlin offered this week a deployment of its naval and air fleet.
Despite the fact that Moscow has spared no manpower and has shown off its military muscle on the Baltic shores, with ships, planes, helicopters and even soldier exercises, surely few ships caught as many eyes in Kaliningrad as a pair of ships with metal spines and rubber bellies: Yevgeny Kocheshkov and Mordovia, two Zubr-class ships.
The reason: his peculiar physiognomy and the ability to move through the sea at great speed and dash onto shore like a huge, stranded metal whale with its guts baited from tanks.
A brand recognized by the Guinness Book
The Yevgeny Kocheshkov and Mordovia ships are two huge hovercrafts, two amphibious assault ships of the Pomornik class, a heritage of the USSR, and which have stood out for years as the largest ships of their type in the world. The vessels have been operational in the Baltic Fleet since the autumn of 1990, and while they may be far below the size of other war-torn hulks that ply the oceans, they do stand out from the rest of the air-cushioned hovercraft.
Thanks to their design, the Zubr class ships are capable of displacing 555 tons at full load, have a length of 57.3 meters and 25.6 meters wide and —despite the enormous weight that it is capable of carrying— it reaches a speed of 60 knots, just over 100 km/h, with a cruising speed of between 56 and 74 km/h. The operational range of it is 300 miles, 482 kilometers.
As detailed in 2021 by the Russian state agency TASS, the Yevgeny Kocheshkov hovercraft carries on board two 140-millimeter (mm) A-22 Ogon rocket launchers, a pair of 30-mm AK-630 automatic cannons and eight sets of portable defense systems. Aerial Igla.
Also known as the Zubr class or Project 1232.2 —names by which they were known in the USSR—, they have a cargo area of 400 square meters and can carry a significant amount of fuel. On board they have space to move other ground combat vehicles, such as three war tanks or a dozen armored cars with 140 soldiers.
The great advantage of the Zubr is that, in addition to the ocean, they are able to move along the beach, avoiding small obstacles, such as ditches, trenches or even mine fields. According to Naval News, is prepared to move in swampy areas, which makes it suitable for about 70% of the world’s coasts. The Russian Navy is by no means the only one to have Project 1232.2 hovercraft in its ranks. Although they are built at Almaz Shipbuilding, similar hovercrafts are also available in Saint Petersburg, China and Greece.
The status of the Zubr is recognized even by the Guinness Book of Recordswhich distinguishes them as the largest hovercraft in the world, with measurements set at 57 meters long and 22.3 wide with a weight of 555 tons. That doesn’t mean they are the only giants of their kind. For decades in the English Channel, for example, the Hovercraft SR.N4 operated, another titan that reached 56 meters in length and weighed approximately 320 tons.
Images | Wikipedia, Минобороны России and Kremlin.ru
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism