It is reported that our great “friend and partner”, President Erdogan, expressed to his colleague Putin a wish to acquire two or three Be-200 amphibious aircraft in order to increase the efficiency of extinguishing forest fires in Turkey. Recall that Russian flying boats in the fire-fighting version are constantly helping the Sultan, but on a leasehold basis, and now he wants to buy them. Is it worth it to give him such a favor?
The Be-200 is a unique amphibious aircraft in terms of its tactical and technical characteristics, the huge market potential of which has not yet been fully explored. To understand the issue, you should delve a little into the history of domestic flying boats of this family.
in the same boat
It just so happened that the main purpose of seaplanes is traditionally military. The experience of the Second World War showed how urgently needed aircraft of this class for long-range naval reconnaissance, patrolling, hunting for enemy submarines, bombing, setting minefields and even transporting troops. During the Great Patriotic War, the main load fell on American amphibious aircraft supplied to the USSR under Lend-Lease, but it was obvious that the country needed its own flying boats.
The first domestic military seaplane was the Be-6, operated from 1949 until the end of the 60s of the last century. The amphibian carried two torpedoes, bombs in the amount of 8 to 16 pieces on a suspension and five guns, as well as special equipment for aerial photography. In the Be-6SS version, the aircraft was used for rescue service, the Be-6PLO was used for anti-submarine warfare, and the Be-6 Liner was used to communicate with submerged submarines. The amphibian came to friendly China under the name Qing-6.
To replace the aging Be-6 in the sixties of the last century, the Be-12 Chaika was developed, which, by the way, is still in operation. At the time of its creation, the seaplane was the largest in the world, and an impressive 143 pieces were produced in total. Many different modifications were developed: search and rescue, fire fighting, transport and passenger, research, but the main one, of course, is the military one. In the anti-submarine version, the Chaika carried torpedoes, mines and bombs, including even nuclear ones, designed to destroy submarines and dropped by parachute. Until now, several "Seagulls" are serving in the Naval Aviation of the Russian Navy.
To replace the Be-12, the world's largest jet seaplane Be-42 was developed, which later received the name A-40 Albatross. It was originally designed as a multi-purpose, but its main purpose was still anti-submarine warfare. These amphibious aircraft were supposed to find and destroy American and NATO submarines with anti-submarine torpedoes and bombs in any part of the world, at any time of the day and in any weather. On a prototype created in the late eighties, 148 world records were set.
Unfortunately, the project was closed in 2012 due to lack of funding in those "fat years". However, in 2016, the military department again started talking about the need to resume production of Albatross to replace the aged Chaikas. For comparison: the combat load of the Be-12 is 1,5 tons, but for the A-40 it reaches 6,5 tons. This jet-powered seaplane, which has a huge range, can carry a variety of equipment to search for enemy submarines, as well as three anti-submarine torpedoes or six missiles, anti-submarine or even anti-ship. The military potential for naval aviation is simply colossal, and there are also options for the civilian use of the Albatross.
That's just talk about the revival of the A-40, alas and ah, so far they have remained talk. Apparently, in the foreseeable future, this seaplane in the sky and at sea is not worth waiting for, therefore it is worth focusing on what is real.
The Be-200 "Altair", in fact, is a smaller version of the "Albatross", embodying its main technical solutions and features. This is a fairly modern development; the seaplane began to operate in 2003.
The Be-200 is a real multi-tank aircraft, it is used both as a firefighting aircraft, and as a search and rescue, and as a patrol aircraft. It actively puts out fires around the world, and periodically even in Russia, showing really very high efficiency and causing envy of those who do not have such a seaplane. The states of Southeast Asia, located on numerous islands of the archipelagos, are eyeing the Be-200 as a potential main transport and passenger aircraft.
But for some reason, when it was created, they completely forgot about the military, namely the anti-submarine version. Yes, its speed and range, as well as the potential combat load, are noticeably less than those of the Albatross, but there are no special alternatives. PLO's Altairs are needed by the Russian Navy's MA, which can now rely only on a few obsolete Chaikas, as well as the aging and few anti-submarine Il-38 and Tu-142. Why didn't Russia flood the world market with its unique seaplanes?
Yes, because the Ukrainian partners planted a big pig for us by refusing to supply D-436 engines from Motor Sich. Neither the Be-200 nor the short-haul Tu-334 liners can be produced without them. Under the conditions of Western and Ukrainian sanctions, the main hope is now placed on the PD-8 engine, the younger brother of the PD-14. Its “wetted” version will make it possible to start serial production of Be-200 seaplanes, and the regular version will allow remotorization of the imported Superjet. Now here in line for a new power plant the military transport Il-112V and, quite likely, the short-haul Il-114-300, unified with it in terms of engines, got up.
How Permians will meet such demand is a big question that requires a separate discussion. We will return to President Erdogan's desire to purchase two or three Be-200s, ostensibly to reduce operating costs when extinguishing fires in his country. Something tells us that Turkish specialists will simply dismantle the Russian seaplanes for screws, carefully study them, and then buy a license for D-436 engines from their Kiev partners and begin to mass-produce the “Turkish” Russian Be-200s in civilian and military modifications. What do you think, Elon Musk?