Yevgeny Kocheshkov
Russia tested the Yevgeny Kocheshkov hovercraft in a live-fire exercise on the Baltic SeaRussian Ministry of Defence

The largest amphibious hovercraft in the world has been tested in live artillery fire drills by Russia, which sent it to the Baltic Sea.

According to Russia's Ministry of Defence, the MDKVP "Yevgeny Kocheshkov" Zubr-class craft completed a series of military drills, including live fire at aerial targets. The heavily armed craft fired at aerial targets with artillery guns and the marine equivalent of the Grad missile.

"Luminous SAB-250 bombs arranged in the form of garlands with glowing elements were suspended as targets by Sukhoi Su-24 bomber jets from the naval aviation of the Baltic Fleet," it said on Wednesday (6 May).

The Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft is capable of carrying large amounts of cargo and personnel, and is designed to transport assault units to the shore under enemy fire.

Thanks to its air cushion, it can traverse harsh land conditions and is capable of landing on 70% of the total length of the world's coastlines.

The Zubr-class vessel can carry up to 130 tonnes of cargo which amounts to as many as three medium battle tanks such as the T-80B tank or eight BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles according to Naval Technology's specs sheet of the vessel. Alternatively the Zubr can also carry 10 BTR-70 APCs at once or 360 fully equipped amphibious landing troops.

Other elements of the vessel which were tested in the exercise beside its firing capabilities were damage control, radiation exposure, chemical and biological protection of the ship into the sea.

Russia shares the Baltic Sea with NATO allies Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, as well as with EU members Sweden and Finland. Its major access point to the waters is the enclave city of Kaliningrad which is separated from mainland Russia by the territory of Poland and Lithuania.

A recent Newsweek investigation found that the increased military build-up in Kaliningrad has turned the city into "a veritable arms depot".

Earlier this year defence officials from Baltic states expressed concern at the amount of Russian military activity near their respective territories

Russia-Turkey hovercraft deal

Also this week, the state-owned Russian arms company Rosoboronexport offered to collaborate with Turkey to create amphibious hovercraft for the use of the Turkish Navy.

A spokesman for the Russian arms exporter said on Thursday (7 May) that Russia and Turkey had also conducted joint tests of a missile defence system, and that Russia had made several arms deals with Turkish firms.

"We have been cooperating on the creation of smaller amphibious hovercraft, as well as the integration of combat systems of Russian manufacture with Turkish naval platforms," Rosoboronexport spokesman Anatoly Aksyonov said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Aside from the amphibious hovercrafts, Aksyonov said that Turkish officials have also expressed an interest in the acquisition of Russian short-range missile defence systems.

Last month, the Times reported that Russia had threatened to use nuclear force against the United States and its Nato allies over Crimea and the Baltic States.

At a closed-door bilateral meeting held in Germany in mid-March, the Kremlin's emissaries cautioned that any Western attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine will be met with force.