This article comes to us from a former member of the Greek Special Forces, Vasilis Chronopoulos.  I’m trying to get him on board as a regular writer with SOFREP so let us know how you like his first article! -Jack

Seeing that Russian Zubr casually docking amongst heedless sunbathers surprised many. For me, what it did was tickle some memory neurons: boy, hasn’t it been a while since I’ve boarded one of these big guys. Do I miss it? Yes and no.

The Soviets started to build their first sea-bison (zubr means bison) in 1983, in an attempt to make a bigger, faster and better armed air-cushioned landing craft than those they already had. By 1986 the first craft was ready and commissioned by 1988. In the early 90s there were eight Soviet Zubr’s in the Baltic and Black seas. The inspiration behind its construction was to be able to realize flanking maneuvers from the seas in case the NATO armies were to advance against the Russian mainland. The collapse of the Soviet Union put the program to an end and with the Black Sea fleet being divided, the existing Zubr units were distributed between Russia and Ukraine.



Beginning their design, the Russians decided to go big or go home. So big, that their bison ended up being the largest hovercraft on the planet: 187ft long and 84ft wide. It bears five Kuznetsov NK-12 engines, two for lift and three for propulsion, and with the combined 35,508hp of the latter, it can reach the impressive speed of 75mph, with only the 70% of the engine power in use. In its belly, the little sea-monster can fit 3 main battle tanks, or 10 armored vehicles, or 8 APCs with up to 140 soldiers. Without the vehicles, it can transport up to 500 men.

For its armament, it has several configurations. Its AA protection is based on 4×4 Strela-3 or 2 SA-N-5 “Grail” quad launchers, and 30 mm AK-630 Air Defense Gun Mount. For landing troops support, it has 140 mm Ogon launchers or 2 retractable 122mm rocket launchers.