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Beriev Be-42 / A-40 Albatros / MERMAID

The largest amphibian plane in the world, the A-40 Albatros military maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft, first flew in 1986 and entered service in limited numbers in 1990. Other versions of the aircraft include the Be-42, which is optimized for search and rescue and the twin propfan powered A-45, Be-40P a 105 seat airliner,Be-40PT combo airliner/freighter and Be-44 is ASW/ Surveillance/Minelaying version. The aircraft also forms the basis of the slightly smaller civil Be-200, which is being promoted for various missions including firefighting.

In 1972. the designer of the Taganrog Machine Building Plant (at present - the Taganrog aviation scientific and technical complex [im]. G.M. Bberiev), began the study of the appearance of promising antisubmarine seaplane. It had to become the successor of the amphibian aircraft Be-12, whose series production at the located by a number aircraft plant im. G.Dimitrov approached completion. However, at that time the hydro-aviation in the Soviet Union faced an ambiguous relation. If Naval Fleet was as before interested in the new amphibian aircraft, then the Ministry of Aircraft Industry was of the opinion that the tasks of antisubmarine fight, and search and rescue at sea, can be taken care of by land based aviation and helicopters. Therefore the full-scale financing of promising experimental design works on the hydro-aviation in the USSR had practically ended.

The chief designer G.M. Beriev had been replaced in 1968 by A.K.Constantinov, who survived the prevailing state of affairs, proving the need of retaining seaplane construction. But the basic profile of the work of OKB during this period, became the creation of the aviation complexes of special designation on the base of existing carrier aircraft. The aerial survey An-24[FK] (into a series An-30) and the communication relay aircraft Tu-142[MR], and the A-50 radar picketand guidance aircraft created on the basis of Il-76 - all successfully underwent tests and were built in modernized series by Taganrog specialists. Nevertheless, scientific research work on the sea thematics in Taganrog (together with TsAGI (Central Institute of Aerohydrodynamics im. N Ye Zhukovskiy)) did not cease. At the beginning of the 1970s the specialists of OKB participated in the development of the experimental amphibian aircraft of vertical takeoff and landing VVA-14 for the project R.L. Bartini. A number of the preliminary designs of the seaplanes of different designation was created.

In order to attain delivery by the government of a tasking for the creation of new seaplane, A.K.Constantinov placed before the designers the most complex task - of creating the design of seagoing aircraft according to its technical flight characteristics [LTKH] that not being inferior to land-based analogs. The OKB began the intensive works on the design of new anti-submarine amphibian aircraft, article "V", which received the index A-40 and proper name of "Albatros". The new machine was intended for the replacement in the system of naval aviation of aircraft Be-12 and Il-38. The basic task A-40 must perform was conducting search, subsequent tracking and destruction of the submarines of enemy. Furthermore, Albatros it could be assigned to setting of minefield barriers and air facilities of hydroacoustic opposition, to the accomplishment of search and rescue objectives, conducting following radio- and electronic reconnaissance, and also the destruction of surface targets.

The takeoff weight and the geometric dimensions of article "V" were determined from the conditions of the guaranteed flying range necessary for the solution of the problems in the limits of neighboring and middle sea zones presented. According to the precomputations the takeoff weight of amphibian was 80-90 tons, which was 2,5-3 times more than the Be-12. The A-40 had to have high technical characteristics [LTKH], which is very complex reach on the amphibian aircraft. It was necessary to ensure a good seaworthiness. The new amphibian had to work from the water with the wave height to 2 meters.

Simultaneously with the beginning of the development of design A.[K]. Constantinov began to explain the opinion of customer. Hoping to obtain approval for the creation of aircraft, he met with Glavkoma the Navy of the Admiral of the Fleet S.G.Ggorshkov, who supported the initiative of Constantinov. As a result, at the end 1976, the Taganrog Machine Building Plant was given the technical task for the development of antisubmarine amphibian aircraft A-40.

Designed to replace old the Beriev Be-12 and Ilyushin Il-38 in Russian Navy aviation anti-submarine service, the A-40 was developed to provide access to remote areas in the east of the Soviet Union, transporting replacement maritime crews, anti-submarine operations, and SAR work. In contrast to the Be-12 and Il-38, the A-40 was originally planned to be equiped with the system of in-flight refuelling. According to the results of studies conducted together with TsAGI (Central Institute of Aerohydrodynamics im. N Ye Zhukovskiy) investigations of models with different aerodynamic layouts finally focused on a monoplane with a high wing, a two-planing-step boat and the T-shaped tail assembly. The floats were placed at the wing tips, and two sustainer engines were established on the pylons above the landing-gear fairings after the wing. For achieving the desired performance characteristics the aircraft was used the high-aspect-ratio wing of a comparatively thin profile, moderate sweepback, also, with the powerful mechanization. This wing ensured efficiency with the cruise and the bombardment, and also small takeoff and landing speeds.

Design work on the Albatross (NATO identification name 'Mermaid') began in 1983, but it was not until 1988 that the type was made publicly known in the west when the US announced it had taken satellite photographs of a jet powered amphibian under development in Russia. This product of the G.M.Beriev Taganrog Aviation Scientific-Engineering Complex, was detected by US intelligence in 1988 and designated MERMAID by NATO. The A-40 aircraft was publicly revealed at the Tushino airshow in August 1989.

In spite of realized large scientific and technical reserve and the carried out preparation for series production, further work on this aircraft did not find proper state financing. Because of the possibilities of fulfilling their functions both in flight and with the presence on float, the amphibian effectiveness exceeded the carrier-based and land antisubmarine aircraft. Nevertheless, in 1995. Defense Ministry made a decision about freezing the scientific research and experimental design work on the A-40 and beginning the development of new antisubmarine aircraft on the base of the already transmitted into the series production passenger Tu-204. It was assumed that Tu-204P it will be maximally standardized with the base all-passenger layout (which it was planned to let out by a large series), which will substantially lower operating costs. It seemed that the history A-40 on this ended. In subsequent five years only a few Tu-204 were produced, and the Tu-204P project was frozen.

Over the years the creation of different civil modifications on the base A-40 were examined. Amphibian aircraft for the extinguishing of forest fires A-40p (a project of 1991) could collect during gliding up to 25 tons of water. Besides strictly fire extinguishing, A-40p would solve the problems of delivery into the region of the fire of firefighting teams, special means and equipment (both in a landing manner, to the nearest suitable reservoir and by landing by the parachutes), patrolling forest tracts with the firefighting team aboard (with duration to 10 hours), the aerial photography of fires and locality adjacent to them. Smoke jumpers were placed in the former cab of operators, and water tanks and chemical fluids in the middle technical section and the cargo hold. The all-passenger layout A-40 (studied in 1994) would have a passenger capacity of up to 121 people. Intended for operation on the routes of average extent, it was developed in two versions: with the engines D-30Kp and with the engines CFM56-5C4.

These modifications remained projects. For the civil application it was decided to create the reduced analog A-40, work on which led to the creation of multipurpose amphibian aircraft Be-200. The Beriev BE-200 is a twin engine multiple amphibious aircraft derived from the much larger Beriev A-40. The Be-200 is intended for production in transport, passenger-carrying, fire-fighting, patrol and search-and-rescue versions. The aircraft's maximum take-off weight of 42 ton is half that of the A-20.

The Russian Ministry of Forests had expressed interest in 10 to 50 Be-200s for fire-fighting roles, although the required finance is unlikely to be available for some time. Production is being undertaken by Beriev's associated Irkutsk factory within IAPO, which also builds the two-seat Sukhoi Su-30 series, including the MKI versions for India. Interest has also been expressed by South Korea in a version of the Be-200 for maritime patrol.

In 1995 a resolution was adopted at the level of the chief of armaments of the Russian Federation armed forces about the cessation of work on the A-40 airplane. As many as 20 A-40 Albatrosses had been ordered for CIS naval service, but the status of this order is unclear, with construction delayed due to funding difficulties. As of 2002 two flying prototypes of the A-40 and one aircraft for static tests had been built. After renewed Russian navy interest, work resumed in 2002 on the prototype A-40, restoring it to airworthiness and also preparing a prototype A-42 search and rescue variant.

The Be-42 SAR aircraft would be able to take 54 survivors of a marine accident and would be equipped with liferafts, powerboats and a range of specialized medical equipment including a transfusion machine, defibrillator and ECG. It would also be equipped with various infrared sensors and a searchlight.

The Be-42 is a unique aircraft, with its high-aspect ratio, slightly swept wings, slender fuselage, and booster engines faired in beneath the main engines. The unmistakable shape features a high wing with two large motors placed over the wing, a "T" tail and a probe for the in-flight refueling. Despite a lack of production orders the Beriev A-40 Albatros has accumulated a number of world-wide performance records from its first flight in 1986.

In 2005 funding was discontinued for programs to create machines Tu-204P and A-40 "Albatros" (the latter in the development of Taganrog Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex Berieva, started back in 1983).




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