Ship Captains are Required for Geological Exploration


In the Soviet era, the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau was involved in design of all the models of Air Cushion Crafts or ACC intended for the Soviet Navy, such as Skat, Kalmar and Jeyran LCACs, including the Zubr Class system, the world’s largest landing craft.

In the interview below, Dmitry Tsymlyakov, the ACC Chief Designer for the Almaz CMDB, and Vladimir Klichko, the Lead Engineer for the Krylov State Research Centre, are talking about the actual situation in this industry.

 - Did Russian air-cushion craft designers manage to preserve the scientific and technological potential in the 1990s – the hard times for Russian economics and industries?

Klichko: Since the late 1960s, the Soviet designers kept ahead of their colleagues from Great Britain and the USA, the leading countries with large-scale development programs in this sphere of shipbuilding. For example, British specialists believed that the design of a flexible enclosure for a ship over 300 DWT is an infeasible project. However, Soviet designers managed to build the Jeyran Class air-cushion landing craft over 350 DWT. Later, they built the Zubr Class air‑cushion landing craft, the world’s largest one to the present time. Nowadays, the Russian Navy uses two Zubr Class ships, while four such ships are operated by the Naval Forces of Greece. Two new ships including the Ukrainian design documentation have been purchased by China where some projects to build two unlicensed copies of this ship are currently in progress. Now, there is a project to resume the Zubr Class landing craft production at the Shipbuilding Plant “More” in the Crimea.


- Before now, the shipbuilding industry development has been basically driven by the needs of the national defense, but some commercial crafts have been built for passenger and cargo transportation (Air Cushion Vehicle or ACV). What is the outlook for development of commercial ACV projects?

Tsymlyakov: In the USSR, a specific differentiation of scopes of activities was in common practice, i.e. the Almaz CMDB was specialized in military projects, while the CDB “Neptun” was involved in commercial shipbuilding projects. This company was designing such ACVs as Gepard, Puma, Irbis, Argo and Leopard – small transport vehicles for river shipping. In the late 1980s, the harbor air-cushioned unloader development program was launched, some prototypes were produced, for instance, the Bizon Class craft (Project 18801), but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, these projects were terminated.
As for the commercial use of ACVs, they are mainly intended for geological exploration and hydrocarbon production. Usually, helicopters have been used to carry passengers and cargo to hard-to-reach places. However, compact-type diesel ACVs are more energy-saving vehicles and do not require a large number of service personnel. Unfortunately, these advantages are not always taken into account by oil-and-gas production enterprise executives.

Klichko: We should also take into account the ecological aspect of the problem. Track-type transport that is often used in tundra and taiga regions may dramatically affect a thin ground-covering layer. A gauge of tracks may remain on the tundra ground surface for 20 years! The Almaz CMDB specialists in co-operation with the Krylov SRC have developed some ACV projects for assistance in shallow water drilling for geological survey, because in such conditions the air-cushion vehicle principle is a single option and the best solution.

Almaz Central Marine

- Please, describe the actual situation in development and building of air-cushion craft in other countries.

Tsymlyakov: Since 1984 related U.S. companies have produced the LСAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) class craft to be carried inside launching docks of landing-craft dockships and intended for over-the-horizon amphibious vehicle launch. This scenario assumes that landing forces are to be deployed beyond the coastal defense zone. Totally, 91 landing craft of this class have been produced. 
Now, the service life of these ships is nearly expired, and U.S. manufacturers are concerned to replace them. The new SSC class (Ship-Shore Connection) air-cushion landing craft development programme has been launched. By design, this model is similar to the LCAC-class ship, i.e. she also features an open deck and a drive-through passage, but takes an advantage in higher load capacity. This new landing craft will be fitted with more powerful Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft gas turbines, new compressors with increased performance, new propellers, an advanced flexible enclosure and new communication and navigation systems.
In China, the related companies have launched the production of marine-type gas turbines that have been originally produced in Nikolaev and developed an equivalent for the American LCAC. This craft is intended for the Chinese landing-craft dockships (Project 071). Besides, as we have already mentioned, Chinese companies are building unlicensed copies of the Project 12322 products.

Interviewed by Maksim Sterligov