The first Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft arrives in China in May 2013. (Internet photo)
After the Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft was commissioned by the People's Liberation Army Navy, Shenzhen Television reports that China will be able to deploy its troops to the disputed Diaoyutai or Diaoyu Islands (administered by Japan as the Senkaku but also claimed by China and Taiwan) in the East China Sea and the Spratly islands in the South China Sea in a shorter period of time.
The report said China had already placed an order for four Zubr-class landing craft under a contract worth US$315 million. While two were constructed by the Ukraine-based Feodosiya Shipbuilding Company, the remaining two were licensed to be built in China. The first Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft arrived in China in May 2013 according to the state-run China Radio International based in Beijing. China was also licensed to design and produce its own Zubr-class vessels as part of the deal.
With a cargo hold of 400 square meters and a fuel capacity of 56 tonnes, Shenzhen Television stated that the Zubr-class landing craft is capable of carrying three battle tanks or ten armored vehicles with 140 troops. Without any vehicles, it is able to carry 500 troops on board. Its top speed is about 63 knots or 111 kilometers per hour.
If China embarks on a territorial conflict with Japan over the East China Sea or with Vietnam or the Philippines over the South China Sea, the Zubr-class landing craft will play a decisive role due to its speed and size. As the Zubr-class landing craft is three times larger than the patrol vessels with which the Japanese coast guard and most countries in Southeast Asia are equipped, it is nearly unstoppable, even when detected.
Setting off from the closest naval facilities in eastern China, the Zubr-class could arrive at the Diaoyutai in just three hours. If the PLA were able to occupy the disputed islands before the Japanese government could react or deploy military forces to the battlefield, Shenzhen Television stated that China would win the war even before any battle had even taken place. The Zubr-class landing craft is more of a threat when it is equipped with anti-air missiles and naval guns, according to the report.
The Spratly islands are a group of disputed islands in the South China Sea. They are claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.