Thursday, April 3, 2014


"Flying Ships" To Skim China's Seas

This is not a "seaplane" the International Maritime Organization classes it as a ship.It can not fly higher than what you see in this photo making it a collision hazard for surface shipping and thus governed by the maritime rules to avoid collision.  

American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies   EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD    Update 3/2/2016

"SANYA, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Tourists heading for the resort islands of Sanya, may soon have a faster, more luxurious way of travel, as "flying" ships came onto the radar on Thursday.

Xiangzhou 1 is "sea skimmer" or ground effect vehicle (GEV). Equipped with wings and a propeller similar to those of planes, at a stable speed around 160 km per hour (85 knots), the 12 meter, 2.5 tonne vessel "flew" about two meters above the level of the sea in tests off Sanya."
SOURCE: you may read the entire article at this link

COMMENTARY: GEV technology has been known since the Cold War. Russia tested heavy transports that looked like stubby wing heavy bombers but were designed to carry heavy cargoes at wave skimming height and at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. These vessels have "hulls" that run their entire length and can plow through the water at lower speeds for great distances. They were experimented with for sealift applications because they were faster than hydrofoils but using aircraft technology possibly cheaper to construct. Unfortunately they never developed the cargo capacity even with only lift requirements of a few feet and speed requirements of only 150 mph to be competitive with hydrofoil and other high speed transport ships. As heavy cargo movers these "flying ships" never were much of a great improvement over heavy transport aircraft that could carry just a few pounds less cargo at double and triple the speed with excellent fuel economy. GEV's have pretty much disappeared from the cargo hauling business both military and commercial. As illustrated in the linked article above they can be effective in the long distance high speed ferry business and the Chinese are employing them in that commercial sector. This of course keeps the production lines open for military usage other than logistics.

 Equipped with anti ship missiles and machine guns these vessels could be of utility where high speed small patrol boats are often deployed.  China may well put a few out there in the China Seas for the "wow factor" but we shouldn't be over impressed. These "vessels" are faster than anything else built on a floating "hull" but their primary purpose is to "fly'' low and straight with their load. They are not very  good at any form of "cornering". In vessel to vessel combat they get one good gun run and then they are past and running a straight line that modern day fire control systems have no problem tracking. They are like low flying ducks passing a duck blind full of shotgun toting hunters well schooled in "leading" a target. They might possibly be of use in amphibious assault but to run troops and supplies up on a beach would require having a large ground crew and equipment already on the beach. These "flying ships" can't kedge anchors so getting off the beach and back out to sea would be especially problematic, probably impossible in an opposed landing.  In the China seas areas of operation the problem isn't reaching the islands China is trying to steal, its staying there even if the landings were unopposed. The islands are uninhabited because without a huge logistic effort from a mainland base they are uninhabitable.  

 Should military versions of these things appear in the China Seas neighbors shouldn't worry or even think of engaging in an arms race featuring these things. The Chinese simply have more military money than they know what to do with and more technological knowledge than experience with naval tactics. These GEV vessels are simply a propaganda weapon and diversionary tactic. China would love for Malaysia, Indonesia, or the Philippines to spend millions trying to obtain some of these for their own navies siphoning off funds for real naval weaponry. Militarily equipped GEVs won't do that well against ordinary surface war ships and are very vulnerable to aerial attack. These vessels are simply a niche market ferry, and impressive looking piece of technology of very limited utility. Any nation reasonably endowed with both ordinary ship building and design professionals and aviation professionals can build one any time. Why isn't every one doing it? Impressive as they look, the GEVs aren't very economic or effective in either the military or commercial market. This is simply more dragon "puffery".  Our neighbors in Texas would say: "All hat, no cattle". Translation for non Texans: Someone who dresses like a big ranch owner but in fact has little or no land or cattle. If the Dragon weren't so ill intended it can sometimes be an entertaining show.


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