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Beriev Be-12 Tchaika (Mail) Maritime Patrol / Reconnaissance Flying Boat (1961)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/19/2014

The Be-12 was a very capable floatplane for its time, achieving several world records for an aircraft of this type.

The Beriev Be-12 "Mail" was a successful flying boat aircraft developed for the Soviet Navy as a replacement for its troublesome Be-10 "Mallow" series during the Cold War. It fulfilled the role of maritime patrol and reconnaissance and showcased a turboprop design over the former's turbojet arrangement. Like the Be-10 before it, the Be-12 went on to set several world aircraft records for an aircraft of this type. The series was available in prototype form in 1960, first unveiled to the public during 1961 and entered production soon afterwards. 143 of the type were produced in all with some still flying today (2014).

The Be-12 was powered by 2 x Ivchenko Progress AI-20D turboprop engines mounted high on a high-wing monoplane assembly. The wings were notably cranked upwards from the fuselage in a "gull-wing" type arrangement. As with other flying boat designs, the use of high-mounted wings aided in lift as well as clearing the engines from the surface of the water. To prevent tipping, pontoon floats were affixed under each wing. The Be-12 was typically crewed by four to six personnel. Beyond its water-based landing and take-off, it also held an inherent amphibious quality thanks to its wheeled undercarriage - a feature retained from the preceding Be-10 design. As such, it could function as a traditional land-based aircraft from prepared runways. Beyond that, the Be-12 accommodated a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) system in the tail, a radar housed in the nose section and a glazed observation position also in the nose.

Dimensions included a length of 98.8 feet, a wingspan of 98 feet, and a height of 26 feet. Empty weight was listed at 52,800lbs with a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 79,200lbs. Performance from the twin-turboprop engines included a maximum speed of 330 miles per hour, a range out to 2,100 miles and a service ceiling of 26,250 feet.

The Be-12 bettered the outgoing Be-10 - which it succeeded in Soviet Naval Aviation service - by improving its operational ranges. Its payload included up to 3,300lbs of externally-held stores in the form of torpedoes, depth charges, mines, or conventional drop bombs.

The series was exported to Egypt, Syria, and Vietnam while ex-Soviet stocks fell to the Ukrainians. Additionally, ex-Soviet Navy models were reconstituted into the reborn Russian Navy after the fall of the Soviet Empire in the early 1990s.

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Specifications for the
Beriev Be-12 Tchaika (Mail)
Maritime Patrol / Reconnaissance Flying Boat

Focus Model: Beriev Be-12 Tchaika (Mail)
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer: Beriev - Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1961
Production: 143

Crew: 6

Length: 98.79 ft (30.11 m)
Width: 97.90 ft (29.84 m)
Height: 26.05ft (7.94 m)
Weight (Empty): 52,911 lb (24,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 79,366 lb (36,000 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Ivchenko Progress AI-20D turboprop engines developing 5,180 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 329 mph (530 kmh; 286 kts)
Maximum Range: 2,051 miles (3,300 km)
Service Ceiling: 26,247 ft (8,000 m; 5.0 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)

Hardpoints: 2
Armament Suite:
Up to 3,300lbs of externally-held ordnance including torpedoes, depth charges, mines, or conventional drop bombs.

Be-12 - Base Series Designation; standard production models.

Be-12EKO - Proposed ecological reconnaissance platform.

Be-12I - Proposed flying laboratory

Be-12LL - Cruise missile carrier test airframe

Be-12N - Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variant with MAD and other applicable sensory equipment.

Be-12Nkh - Stripped utility transport; two converted from standard Be-12.

Be-12P - Firefighting variant

Be-12P-200 - Developmental firefighting variant

Be-12PS - Search and Rescue variant; four converted from base Be-12s.

Be-12SK - Test airframe for nuclear depth charges

Be-14 - All-weather, day-night Search and Rescue variant; single example completed.

M-12 - Stripped variant for record attempts.

Egypt; Russia; Soviet Union; Syria; Ukraine; Vietnam