January 3, 2014:
Eight years after beginning purchase negotiations China received the first of four Zubr class LCACs (Landing Craft Air Cushion) in mid-2013. This Zubr was seen in China in late 2013, painted as a Chinese navy vessel and with the hull (pennant) number 3325. The 3xxx series vessels are all small amphibious craft. This is interesting because the Zubr is large enough and capable enough to operate like a larger amphibious ship like the LSTs and LPDs. But China has decided to consider Zubr a less capable craft.
Zubr class craft have a crew of ten and can carry 130 tons (three tanks, or a combination of lighter armored or non-armored vehicles) or 360 troops. The LCAC is armed with two stabilized MLRs (multiple tube rocket launchers), four short range anti-aircraft missiles systems (Igla-1Ms),and two AK-630 six-barrel 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), for defense against anti-ship missiles. Currently most Chinese LCACs were designed and built in China but can only carry about twenty soldiers or two tons of cargo. These are used to quickly get troops from amphibious ships to shore. Since 2005, these have been supplemented by larger JingSah II LCACs. Four of them are carried on each of the larger amphibious ships.
The Zubrs, with a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour, can go right from the Chinese coast to Taiwan and land troops and armored vehicles on shore areas that would otherwise not be passable by troops coming in on standard amphibious craft. The original deal was for two Zubrs to be bought from Ukraine and the other two to be built in China under license. These craft are expensive (the price and weapons configuration is negotiable but the cost is somewhere over $10 million each). Ukraine feared that China might only want to buy a few to get some experience and figure out how to build their own. China agreed this was their intention and a deal was made. The first Zubr came from Ukraine via cargo ship in May 2013. Another Zubr is under construction in China and it appears that the original deal (two from Ukraine, two built in China) is being implemented.