Be-200 Indigenous Engine Delays Drive Be-12 Life Extension

 - April 20, 2019, 4:10 AM
Known to NATO as the "Mail", and to Russians as the "Chayka" (seagull), the Be-12 will continue to serve for some years yet as the fleet undergoes a life extension program to cover delays to the deliveries of new Be-200s. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Following the order by the General Prosecutor’s office to cancel work on re-equipping the Beriev Be-200 amphibian aircraft with PowerJet SaM146 turbofans, Russia’s United Engine Corporation (local acronym ODK) has instead offered the Aviadvigatel PD-10, a scaled derivative of the recently certified PD-14, to power the twinjet. The defense ministry and United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) have accepted the proposal. As a stopgap, the defense ministry has ordered an upgrade and lifetime extension for the long-serving Be-12 amphibians. Developed in the 1950s, the Be-12 was in production until 1973, and nine examples remain operational.

The need to re-engine the Be-200 arises from the fact that the government of Ukraine forbade sales of military equipment to Russia following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and the stand-off in Donbass. This makes it impossible for UAC to complete newly built aircraft with the D-436TP turbofans developed for the type by the Ivchenko-Progress design house in Zaporozhie.

At first, ODK considered localizing the engine’s production at the Moscow-based Salyut plant that was making parts for it as part of the industrial cooperation with the Motor-Sich plant in Zaporozhie, where the D-436 assembly line is located. Such a solution has been applied to the AI -222 turbofan that powers the Yakovlev Yak-130 advanced jet trainer.

However, that idea was deemed too costly compared to replacing the D-436TP with the similarly sized PowerJet SAM.146, which was developed for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jet by a joint Franco-Russian team. Having completed preliminary studies into the feasibility of mating the SaM146 with the Be-200, Beriev engineers came up with a positive conclusion. This encouraged UAC to make a proposal to the defense ministry to supply the type to Russian governmental customers with this alternative propulsion. With that having been accepted, the ministry for industry and trade approved an R&D effort worth 13 billion roubles ($203 million) to adapt the SaM146 to new airframes, and the refurbishment of existing aircraft. Together, the Ministry of Defense and Ministry for Emergencies (EMERCOM) have a requirement for 20 new Be-200s.

Whereas the manufacturers and the ministries looked positively on this solution, the General Prosecutor’s office did not. Earlier this month, Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor (Attorney) General of Russia, said that equipping aircraft destined for the military with parts made in NATO member countries “carries risks” that the State Defense Order will not be fulfilled. His office filed a formal request with the Russian government warning about the consequences of having NATO-made parts in the engines powering aircraft destined for defense. In a response to this, the customers for the Be-200 decided to seek an alternative.

In mid-April ODK proposed the PD-10, a new design that needs to undergo a complete cycle of development, testing, and certification before installation in the Be-200. Accepted by the ordering ministries, this option will invariably delay aircraft deliveries by several years. According to industry estimates, the SaM146-powered Be-200 could have been produced in a prototype form in 2020, and deliverable aircraft the following year.