City Shipyard Hovercraft Is 1st Delivery to NATO State
Published: December 29, 2000 (Issue # 633)
Last week St. Petersburg's Almaz shipyards delivered the first of two enormous Zubr hovercraft it has contracted to build for the Greek armed forces under a deal arranged by Ros vooru zhe niye, the Russian state agency responsible for arms sales abroad.
While the $100 million price tag for the contract, which was signed in January 2000, makes the delivery impressive enough, it is even more significant as Ros voo ru zhe niye says that it represents the first delivery of a Russian-made warship to a NATO member country.
In fact, this was the first time one of the craft had been sold abroad at all.
Alexander Osin kin, head designer at the Central Sea Design Bureau in St. Petersburg, where Zubr was designed 10 years ago, says that the vessel's abilities make it unique.
"For example, the United States and Great Britain also have hovercraft, but the Zubr is much quicker with a maximum speed of 110 kilometers an hour and is superior in relation to many technical parameters," Osinkin said.
"The Zubr can clear land obstacles 1.6 meters high while other craft of this type can clear less than a meter," Osinkin said. "It can also carry three tanks - at 50 tons each - or 10 armored troop-carriers, while the American Landing Craft Air Cushion vessels can carry only one tank and a maximum weight one-quarter that which the Zubr can haul," he said.
The Zubr weighs 540 tons, is 57 meters long and 22.5 meters wide.
Anatoly Pavlov, a consultant at the St. Petersburg office of Ros voo ru zhe niye, said that the fact that a NATO member country bought the ship from Russia rather than from other producers could become a precedent and proves the high quality of the Zubr.
And Valery Che repovsky, technical director at Almaz, said that the sale presented no security problems. "We've sold other navy ships to Northern Af ri ca, Algeria, India, and some other countries, but never to a NATO country," he said. "This is a very profitable contract for Russia, especially since there is nothing secret about the vessel."
Cherepovsky said that the vessel delivered last week had been serving in the Russian Navy since 1994 and had just been overhauled and modified. The second ship called for in the contract will be new and is due to be finished in June 2001. Construction on the ship began this May. A group of Greek inspectors will remain in St. Petersburg to oversee the construction of the second craft.