Tsaplya Class - This is South Korea's flagship Hovercraft

South Korea's flagship hovercraft
South Korea's flagship hovercraft

Militarymedia.net - Until now, no one has been able to shift the zubr class title as landing craft air cushion (LCAC) or the largest horvercraft in the world. Zubr Class deserves to be called the largest hovercraft, because in one operation can carry three units of MBT (Main Battle Tank). Special Zubr Class in particular we have peeled in the previous article.

Did you know, however, that a giant hovercraft with the technological flavor of the Soviet Union is not just a Zubr Class. Although the weight and payload are not as fantastic as the Zubr Class, there is so-called Tsaplya Class LCAC (Project 12061E Murena-E) as a medium hovercraft. Entering the medium class, Tsaplya Class can still carry MBT, even if it is only one unit. In addition, 130 troops or one infantry company can be taken one way.

From the design, Tsaplya Class is similar to Zubr Class, but with smaller dimensions. The similarities between the two are visible from the model of the two CIWS canon domes on the upper deck, the position of the bridge and of course the propeller blades at the stern.

Historically, this hovercraft was built by Almaz, Khabarovsk Shipyard, Amur in the period 1982 – 1991. Of the 12 units planned to be made, only 10 were produced, of which 7 were operated by the Russian Navy and the remaining three were operated by the South Korean Navy. For the record, South Korea bought the used Tsaplya Class in 2005.

During the Soviet era, the Tsaplya Class also served as a patrol vessel, primarily to guard the border lines along the Amur and Ussuri Rivers with Chinese territory. After the fall of the Soviets, kind of, these hovercraft began to be towed and three units had been dismantled, until 1995 none of which were seen operated by the Russian Navy.

To carry out the role of a patrol vehicle, the hovercraft is equipped with weapons in the form of two CIWS (Close In Weapon System) AK-630 30 mm caliber canons controlled through optical sights, two 12.7 mm heavy machine guns and two 40 mm automatic grenade launchers. In addition, eight MANPADS Igla hanud missile launchers were prepared. Quoted from roe.ru, it is mentioned that this weapon can be used effectively at wave heights of 1.5 meters and wind speeds of 12 meters per second.

Weighing 151 tons, The Tsaplya Class is powered by 2 × 4,000 hp PR-77 gas turbines, 2 lift fans, 2 propulsion fans and 2 four-bladed variable-pitch propellers. The hovercraft's maximum speed reaches 50 knots and has an operating range of 190 km.

Tsaplya Class is manned by 14 personnel, including 4 officers. From its dimensions, this hovercraft is 31.6 meters long and 14.8 meters wide. Meksi is not a new transport vehicle, but Rosoboronexport, as the official agent of Russian arms sales, still markets the Tsaplya Class.

In 2014, there was news that South Korea intends to buy another three units of horvercraft with enhanced capabilities, precisely to replace the three old units ex Russia. In November 2020, the Russian Navy is reportedly also ordering 8 units of Tsaplya Class.

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