The first Beriev Be-200 twin-engine amphibian built to a specification from the Russian navy has entered trials. It commenced flying on February 14 from the aerodrome of Beriev’s Aeronautical Complex in Taganrog (local acronym TANTK), a member of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). This aircraft is a derivative of the Be-200ChS factory standard intended for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions with the added capability of firefighting.
After completion of factory and customer acceptance trials, the aircraft will be handed over to the Russian navy, according to a recent UAC press statement. The Russian defense ministry signed a contract for six aircraft in 2013, only to nullify it four years later through a court ruling over the customer’s dispute with industry. There is no information concerning the MoD placing another order for the type. In all likelihood, the recently flown example might be used as a technology demonstrator in an effort to win both domestic and foreign orders for a military version of the Be-200.
The principal issue with a militarized Be-200 is the fact that the type relies on the D-436 turbofan developed by the Ivchenko-Progress design house and manufactured by Motor-Sich, both located in Ukraine. Even though the Moscow-based Salut plant has mastered a large number of parts of the 16,500-pounds-thrust engine, the remainder is imported. The government in Kiev has placed a ban on military export to Russia following the events in Donbass and Crimea. This means that D-436s could not be sold to the Russian defense ministry and companies associated with it. Civilian export is unrestricted, however, enabling Ukrainian companies to render services to Russian non-military organizations and supply them with new engines and spares.
UAC considered using the PowerJet SaM.146 instead, but about a year ago the Russian government ordered that the Franco-Russian powerplant was inappropriate and that an all-Russian solution be found. This could be achieved through development of the PD-8 engine as a downscaled PD-14, but the process may take several years. It was decided, therefore, that in the course of the next few years all freshly assembled Be-200s would go to Russia’s Ministry for Emergencies (Emercom) that operates a dozen such aircraft (and seeking more) and foreign customers: Azerbaijan (with one aircraft already), China (with a firm order for two plus two options), Indonesia (four), and Chile (two), as well as U.S.-based Seaplane Global Air Services (order for ten).
All of these customers are comfortable with the current-production Be-200ES-E version that comes with a restricted type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), enabling operators to undertake fire-fighting duties, using the aircraft’s capability to scoop 12 tonnes of water in a single run. So far only China has expressed an interest in an exportable military aircraft based on the current platform.
Despite long talks concerning as many as a dozen examples optimized for SAR and ASW missions, as well as liaison with warships and submarines at sea, Russia’s military is yet to place an order. Beijing has only signed a small contract on firefighting aircraft for the national forestry service. A more substantial order for a military version may not materialize in any case if the AVIC TA600 four-engined amphibian (which debuted at Airshow China 2018) successfully passes trials.