Russia develops unique seaplanes

25/ 10/ 2006

MOSCOW. (Yury Zaitsev for RIA Novosti) - Fire-fighting and rescue
operations, as well as cargo and passenger traffic in remote areas, are very
expensive and involve the use of airplanes, helicopters, ships, hovercraft
and other specialized equipment.

However, experience shows that flying boats are the best option because they
can effectively fight natural and man-made fires.

Their efficiency is enhanced by the ability to scoop up water from local
lakes and rivers and promptly pour it on the seat of the fire.

Russia's newest Be-200 flying boat, which was developed at the
Taganrog-based Beriyev scientific-technical complex (TANTK) in the early
1990s, is the last word in Russian seaplane construction and is best suited
for the job, because virtually every Russian forest has large lakes, rivers
and reservoirs.

This seaplane is a descendant of the Be-12 Mail and the A-40 Mermaid
(Albatross) ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) planes, which have proved their
worth in emergencies and do not require airfields to land and take off.

TANTK, as the main national agency for implementing a joint seaplane
construction policy, planned to develop passenger airliners, cargo planes
and other versions on the basis of the Be-200.

The Be-200 project was not closed after the Soviet Union's break-up, but
construction was delayed because of financial problems. The first Be-200,
which took off in September 1998, featured special equipment for scooping up

In September 2000, it was first displayed in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea
coast and subsequently traveled to India, Myanmar, Malaysia and South Korea.

The EU, the United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea,
India and Australia are all interested in this flying fire-fighter.

Indonesia is interested in leasing two Russian Il-76 fire-fighting aircraft
in the near future, and is negotiating the delivery of a similar Be-200

The Be-200 was tested in Armenia, operated from a local airfield located at
the altitude of 1,580 meters and from Lake Sevan 1,950 meters above sea

The unique new seaplane can take off from 1,800-meter runways, from lakes,
rivers and inland seas. It can land in choppy seas among 1.2-meter waves and
scoop up 12-13 tons of water in just 12-14 seconds at 150-190-kph
aquaplaning speeds. The Be-200 has several chemical tanks with a volume of
1.3 cubic meters each. Centrifugal pumps spray their contents to fire sites
together with water. The seaplane can dump up to 270 tons of water during
one fire-fighting mission.

The seaplane's ARIA-200 avionics, which were developed by Russia's State
Research Institute of Aviation Systems and Allied Signals Aerospace of the
United States, ensure automatic fire-fighting operations. Water can be
dumped in salvos or from each separate tank.

The Be-200 has the following specifications:

Maximum ground take-off mass: 37.2 tons

Maximum speed: 610 kph

Service ceiling: 8,000 meters

Maximum range with 7,200-kg fuel load at 8,000 meters: 1,800 km

Ferrying range: 3,850 km

Maximum ground take-off run: 700 meters

Maximum water take-off run: 1,000 meters

Ground landing run: 950 meters

Water landing run: 1,300 meters

Fuselage length: 32.05 meters

Wingspan: 31.88 meters

Parked height: 8.9 meters

The world now operates over 120 fire-fighting aircraft, primarily the
obsolete Canadair Bombardier CL-215 and CL-415 seaplanes, which are three
times less efficient than the Be-200.

The Be-200 faces possible competition from Japanese-made Shin Meiwa US-2
flying boats, a modified US-1 version. Due to the Be-200's faster cruise
speed, both airplanes will deliver approximately the same amounts of water
to fire seats. Moreover, the Russian flying boat's greater climb speed is an
advantage in mountain areas and over forests and hills. The lighter Be-200
is nearly 100% faster than the US-2, which has a higher power-to-weight
ratio and an intricate boundary-layer control system.

Production of Be-200-P fire-fighting planes will be sited in Irkutsk and

The Be-200-T cargo plane can carry 19 passengers, whereas its airliner
version seats 72 people. The Be-200 patrol plane can search and identify
warships, merchant-marine and fishing vessels inside 200-km economic zones,
land inspection teams and sink violators.

Each Be-200 has two to nine crew members; its Be-200PS search-and-rescue
version features state-of-the-art electronics and rescue equipment.

TANTK may develop a Be-200 ASW plane.

The world's largest flying boat, the Be-42, whose fire-fighting version will
have the capacity to carry 25 tons of water and double the number of rescued
people, is now being developed.

The light-engined multi-purpose Be-103 flying boat with a minimal take-off
mass of 2,270 kg is crewed by one pilot and carries five passengers over a
550-km range. Its ferrying range is 1,180 km. Holland, Spain, Malaysia,
Turkey and several other countries have expressed interest in buying it.

Russian designers want to use the more advanced foreign technologies,
avionics, materials and engines. The objective is to develop a 2,500-ton
wing-in-ground effect (WIG) aircraft with a 1,000-ton payload.

Yury Zaitsev is an academic adviser with the Russian Academy of Engineering