In 1986 the turbo-fan powered A-40 amphibious aircraft, the largest in the world, made its maiden flight. Its sophistication was confirmed by 148 world records. The turbo-prop powered A-42 amphibian for patrol and search-rescue operations was designed on the basis of the A-40 amphibious aircraft. An export version, the A-42PE, and a BE-42 SAR variant, with room for 53 casualties or 37-70 passengers, is being studied.
On April 7, 1989 occurred the tragedy, which stirred practically the entire Soviet Union. Te nuclear-powered submarine of the northern fleet K278, more known as Komsomolets, and 42 submariners from its crew perished in the Norwegian Sea. The deployed emergency anti-submarine aircraft Il-38 could only drop rescue facilities, after which, its crew, as with the crew of Norwegian P-3 Orion, it could only powerlessly watch the tragedybelow. The dropped inflatable rafts were opened, but they were kept from the perishing crew by wind. The freezing submariners perished literally before their eyes, and no one could do anything. These events obtained giant resonance in the country, and drew the attention of command the Navy and of management of Minaviaproma to deficiencies in the existing An-12PS and the absence in the composition of naval aviation of the contemporary search and rescue amphibian of the capable of replacing in the system flying boats Be-12PS.
A.K. Constantinov urgently addressed to the session of government commission in Severomorsk on the investigation of the catastrophe, where he reported about the possibilities and the operation of the Albatros. This report produced an impression on those present and the chairman of the VPK I.S.Belousov ordered the creation of search and rescue version of the A-40 moved from the fourth place on the priority list to the first. This was confirmed by a resolution of the VPK #31 dated January 27, 1990. TANTK obtained the task within the shortest periods to develop and to construct search and rescue amphibian aircraft A-42, for conducting the relief operations in the neighbor and middle zones of seas and oceans, which are adjacent to the territory of the USSR. By the same task was provided for the creation of patrol version - A-44.
The A-42 search and rescue version differed from antisubmarine in terms of large onboard hatchways in the nose and tailed section of the boat (size of nose - 1,8 X of 2 m), that made it possible to go down motor boat with the rescuers and to accept onboard victims. For the rendering to urgent medical aid is a special section with that equipped with operating room, equipped with contemporary equipment. Aircraft can accept onboard 53 people.
Although the accomplishment of this objective officially had the highest priority, works on its solution slowed in connection with the disintegration of the defense complex, and then the country. Therefore in 1993, because of the stoppages, and then also the curtailment of financing, the solution about closing of project A-44 and creating the united aircraft A-42/44 was accepted. In this case the high degree of unification of both machines was considered. The production of an experimental A-42 was stopped in 1993 ; with 80% of readiness.
In August 1994 the design project leader G.S.Panatov turned himself directly to the President of the Russian Federation B.N.Yeltsin with the request to contribute to the continuation of financing the building the A-42/44 experimentalamphibian aircraft and subsequent starting into series production. They did not begin to build a series, but works during the period of very limited financing nevertheless continued.
Now began studies of a version of the A-42 with D-27 propfan engines (of 14 000 hp), which would considerably increase flying range (9300 km with the method onboard 15 victims and 7400 km with 53 people). The export version of the A-42 search and rescue aircraft is the A-42PE patrol, search and rescue amphibian aircraft. It is intended for fulfilling the series of problems of patrolling in the sea and coastal zones at the removal to 3500 km from the base without refueling in flight, and also for fulfilling the relief operations.
Amphibian aircraft A-42PE can produce search and detection of those suffering calamity in the open sea with the aid of onboard technical equipment, rendering aid by that suffering calamity with the use of the expendable rescue facilities, special rescuing which suffer calamity at sea by landing aircraft on the water, selection of victims onboard the aircraft, rendering with it of first aid and evacuation to the coast, the urgent delivery of people and small loads to the vessels and the sea units.
As a patrol aircraft the A-42PE is capable to ensure conducting air and electronic reconnaissance with the detection, the identification and the tracking of surface, underwater and coast targets, the determination of their coordinates and elements of motion, the transmission of information to coast control centers and other aircraft and ships. It can strike with onboard weapon submarines, and also others surface and coast targets, place minefield barriers and air facilities of hydroacoustic opposition. A-42PE possesses the unique possibility to conduct antisubmarine search from the position of the surface of the water in the assigned region, including with the use of the lowered hydroacoustic module.
The A-42PE patrol search and rescue amphibian in export version is developed for patrolling in sea and coastal zones. The aircraft is equipped with two Ivchenko Progress D-27A turboprofan engines, 14000 h.p. takeoff power each in place of NPO Saturn D-30K jets, and one PD-33AC booster engine, with power 5200 kg. The aircraft is equipped with "Sea Dragon" search-and-sighting system, ARIA-B integrated and flight and navigation system, and airborne communication system.
In April 2002 it was reported that the financing of the scientific, research and experimental design work on the creation of the A-42 search and rescue amphibious airplane, which is being developed based on the A-40 amphibious airplane, would begin not earlier than 2005, the Deputy General Designer of the Taganrog Beriev Aviation Scientific and Engineering Complex, Viktor Ponomarev, reported. V. Ponomarev characterized the situation surrounding the creation of the A-42 amphibious airplane as a ``problem.``
In connection with the fact that 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, the A-42 program also has had practically no financing. The first prototype of the A-42 had been standing incomplete for several years already at the Taganrog aircraft plant. It was 80 percent completed. As of 2002 two flying prototypes of the A-40 and one aircraft for static tests had been built. Regarding the possibility of export deliveries of the A-40 and A-42 airplane, V. Ponomarev noted that such an operation is carried out jointly with the FGUP Rosoboronehksport.
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.
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