. Beriev Be 12 Tchaika

Type: Antisubmarine; Air/Sea Rescue

Dimensions: wingspan, 97 feet, 5 inches; length, 99 feet; height, 22 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 47,840 pounds; gross, 68,342 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 4,190-horsepower ZMBD AI-20D turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 378 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,000 feet; range, 4,660 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1964-


he gull-winged Be 12 is one of few amphibian air­craft still in service. At one time or another it held 44 international records for machines of its class, and it still plies the waves as an air/sea rescue craft.

Georgi M. Beriev is possibly the only designer in aviation history whose whole career centered around the production of flying boats. In 1949 he cre­ated the Be 6, a unique gull-wing design strongly rem­iniscent of the Martin PBM Mariner. These sturdy craft replaced all the antiquated flying boats of World War II and served well until 1967. A few years before, Beriev’s design bureau was authorized to develop a successor aircraft to the venerable Be 6, one utilizing the very latest turboprop technology. His Be 12 Tchaika (Gull) amphibian of 1960 was widely recog­nized as a machine of considerable ingenuity. It bore superficial resemblance to the earlier machine, but it differed in mounting the engines on top of the gull wing to give the highest possible clearance for the propellers. The hull was also greatly modified into a
single-step design that sported flared bow strakes to reduce sea spray upon takeoffs and landings. Rugged retractable landing gear was installed on the sides; as previously, twin rudders were also fitted. The Be 12 may have appeared as an ugly duckling, but it per­formed like a swan, being maneuverable, fast, and easy to operate on land, sea, or in the air. Production totals are estimated at 100 machines; they received the NATO code name MAIL.

Given their lengthy coastlines, Russia and Japan are the only nations that currently operate fly­ing boats in any number. Like the ShinMaywa US 1, the Be 12 was originally outfitted for antisubmarine warfare, sporting a large nose radome and a sonar tailboom for detection purposes. It has since been slowly phased out by more capable land-based ma­chines like the Ilyushin Il 38 and Tupolev Tu 142 in that role. However, Beriev’s brainchild still performs air/sea rescue work and is expected to do so well into the twenty-first century.