Sunday, March 15, 2015

Soviet military hovercraft

The Soviet Union was the world's largest developer of military hovercraft. Their designs range from the small Czilim class ACV, comparable to the SR.N6, to the monstrous Zubr class LCAC, the world's largest hovercraft. The Soviet Union was also one of the first nations to use a hovercraft, the Bora, as a guided missile corvette, though this craft possessed rigid, non-inflatable sides. With the fall of the Soviet Union most Soviet military hovercraft fell into disuse and disrepair. Only recently has the modern Russian Navy begun building new classes of military hovercraft.

The Gus class was a military version of the Soviet Skate class 50 passenger hovercraft, and was designed to transport infantry and light equipment. Between 1969 and 1974 32 Gus class assault hovercraft were constructed. They were deployed to all Soviet naval fleets except the northern fleet, and were used extensively along the Amur River border with China. Three Gus class LCAC could be carried by the Ivan Rogov class assault transport. They were replaced by the larger Tsaplya class LCAC and more recently the smaller Czilim class ACV. All Guss class hovercraft were believed scrapped in the early 1990's.

The Aist class was built to roughly the same size as the British SR.N4 commercial channel ferry. The Russian name for this class is "maly desantny korabl na vozdushnoy podushke" meaning "small air cushion vehicle". The Aist class prototype was built in 1970 and the type entered production in Leningrad in 1975. It was produced there at a rate of about six every four years. By the early 1990s twenty to twenty four had been produced. They began to be withdrawn following the fall of the Soviet Union, and by 2004 only six remained, in two levels of configuration. A modified main engine intake was installed on all Russian Navy Aists in service with the Baltic Sea fleet. These intakes are believed to include special filters to reduce the ingestion of salt water, sand and dust particles into Aist's engines and machinery, limiting the effects of salt water corrosion. The Aist have suffered from high cushion pressure, and produce exceptionally heavy cushion spray, especially at low speeds.

The Lebed class is the Russian Navy equivalent to the U.S. Navy LCAC, thought the U.S. version entered service seven years later. The Lebed class entered service in 1975, and by the early 1990's twenty had been produced. The ship has a bow ramp with a gun on the starboard side and the bridge to port. The Lebed class can be carried by the "Ivan Rogov" class assault transport ships. The type began to be withdrawn following the fall of the Soviet Union, and by 2004 only three remained. 533 is in the Northern Fleet, while 639 and 640 took part in the Caspian Sea exercises of 2002.

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