Beriev Be-12 Tchaika

By MSW Add a Comment 8 Min Read
Beriev Be 12 Tchaika

Together with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force, the
AV-MF (Soviet Naval Aviation) is the last major service to operate fleets of
combat flying-boats and amphibians. Elsewhere, the role of the patrol
flying-boat was taken over by long-range landplanes in the 1950s. The first test
flight was made 18 October 1960 from a land aerodrome. While taking an
experimental flight over the Azov sea, hear Zhdanov, the first prototype amphibian
BE-12 suffered catastrophe and sank. Three members of the crew died.

The second experimental amphibian BE-12 was built only in 1962. The test were continued. The second and third amphibians were tested by the plant test-pilots M.Muhailov, I.Kuprianov, E.Lahmostov.

The Be-12 entered service with the Soviet Navy in the early
1960s in the maritime patrol role, and is one of the few amphibian aircraft
still in military service in the world. Initially its role was ASW patrol, but
when newer missiles enabled the United States Navy submarines to launch from
further offshore, the Be-12 was converted to a search and rescue role
(Be-12PS). Small numbers are still in service.

This process may continue, as no amphibious replacement for
the Beriev Be-12 Tchaika (Seagull), codenamed ‘Mail’ by NATO, has been
reported, and the AV-MF has introduced specialised landplanes for the
anti-submarine role, the llyushin 11-38 ‘May’ and the Tupolev Tu-142 ‘Bear-F’.

The Beriev design bureau, based at Taganrog on the Sea of
Azov, has been the main supplier of marine aircraft to the Soviet Navy since
1945, most of its aircraft going to the Northern and Black Sea Fleets. The
origins of the Be-12 go back to the LL-143 prototype of 1945, which led in 1949
to the Be-6 ‘Madge’. This latter twin-engined flying-boat served with success
until 1967.

Following the Be-6, the Beriev team carried out a
considerable amount of research into jet-powered flying-boats, producing the
straight-winged Be-R-1 of 1952 and the swept-wing Be-10 of 1960-1. The latter,
powered by two Lyul’ka AL-7RVs (unaugmented versions of the Su-7 powerplant),
established a number of seaplane records in 1961, but only three or four are
believed to have been built.

The lessons learned in the design of the Be-R-1 and Be-10,
however, were incorporated in the design of a much improved flying-boat based
loosely on the Be-6 and identified originally by NATO as a re-engined version
of the older type. In fact, the Be-12, designated M-12 in AV-MF service, bears
little more than a general resemblance to the Be-6, sharing only the gull-wing
layout and twin tail of its predecessor. The greater power and lighter weight
of the turboprop engines have permitted a forward extension of the hull, with a
new planing bottom similar to that of the Be-10. The prominent spray suppressor
around the bows of the Be-10 is also a feature of the turboprop aircraft. The
most significant change, however, was the addition of massive and sturdy retractable
landing gear, making the Be-12 amphibious and thus considerably more versatile
than the earlier Beriev designs. The turreted gun armament of the Be-6 has been
deleted, being replaced by MAD (magnetic anomaly detection) gear in the tail,
above the tailwheel well, while the search radar is carried in a long nose
housing instead of the ventral retractable dustbin radome of the Be-6. One of
the drawbacks of the high-wing layout, the excessive height of the engines
above the ground, has been mitigated by the design of engine cowling panels
which drop down to form strong working platforms.

The considerable weight-lifting capability of the Be-12 was
demonstrated in a series of class records for amphibians set up in 1964, 1968
and 1970, suggesting a normal weapons load as high as 5000kg (11,023lb). The
Be-12 can load on the water through large side hatches in the rear fuselage,
and stores can be dropped through a watertight hatch in the hull aft of the
step. Unlike land-based ASW platforms, a marine aircraft can, in reasonably
calm conditions, settle on the water, and search with its own sonar equipment,
rather than relying exclusively on sonobuoys. This assumes that the Be-12 has
this capability.

With the increasing use of the Mil Mi-14 ‘Haze’ ASW helicopter
and the llyushin II-38 ‘May’, there would seem to be a diminishing ASW role for
the Be-12, although the type will certainly remain in service as a high-speed
search-and-rescue (SAR) vehicle. It is also believed to have been used for
mapping, geophysical survey and utility transport. By Soviet standards the type
was not built in large numbers, only 95 being reported in service in the late


Ukrainian Be-12


Twin-engined maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare


Ecological reconnaissance version.


Flying laboratory version.


Utility transport, experimental passenger trasport version.


Search and rescue version.


Fire-fighting version.


Firefighting version.


Used for nuclear depth charge tests.


Scientific research version.

Be-12P-200 amphibian has been designed at the BERIEV
Aircraft Company on the basis of Be-12 production aircraft and was employed as
a flying laboratory of Be-200 new generation aircraft and Be-12 amphibian
modification aimed at firefighting operations.

As a flying laboratory it is equipped with a special fire
extinguishing system which has no principle differences with Be-200 amphibian
system. The water scooping into the fire extinguishing system tanks can be
performed in the sea, lakes and rivers area at the gliding speed close to the
takeoff speed (0.9 – 0.97 of takeoff speed).The possibility of the tanks
filling in the aerodromes is also provided. Be-12P-200 amphibian was tested in
1996, and for seasons of 1997-1998 it was successfully employed for the forest
fire extinguishing in Irkutsk and Khabarovsk regions.


Type: maritime patrol amphibian

Powerplant: two 3125-kW (4,190-shp) Ivchenko AI-20D

Performance: maximum speed 610km/h (379mph);
economical patrol speed 320km/h (199mph); maximum range 4000km (2,485 miles)

Weights: (estimated) empty 21700kg (47,840lb);
maximum take-off 30000kg (66,139 Ib)

Dimensions: span 29.7m (97ft 5 ¼ in); length 30.2m
(99ft 1 in); height on land 7m (22ft 11 ½  in)

Armament: bombs, rockets or guided ASMs on underwing
pylons; depth charges and sonobuoys

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Exit mobile version