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Qing-6 / Beriev Be-6 "Madge"

Beriev Be-6's, operated by the Peoples Republic of China PLANAF during 1950's-1980's, were useful in patrolling the long coastline of China. The Be-6 was a long-range maritime patrol/reconnaisance flying boat, which first flew in 1947. An all-metal high-wing monoplane that was powered by two 2000hp Shvetsov ASh-72 radial engines. The patrol flying boat, closely resembled the U.S. PBM 'Mariner'. The gull-winged aircraft had twin, oval tailfins on top of a deep fuselage. Until early sixties it was still in service and was relegated to fishing patrol and protection duties with the Soviet Navy. It is the only Russian flying boat of post war design to have attained quantity production. Only 2 Be-6 prototypes were built by factory # 477 at Krasnoyarsk, while 123 Be-6 were built by factory # 86 at Taganrog-Yuzhny from 1952 to 1957.

The Be-6 carried sophisticated equipment, which included a retractable radome aft of the second step. At a later stage it had a redesigned nose without cannon equipment. The Beriev carried a heavy offensive load of 4000kg comprising a variety of combinations of mines, depth charges and torpedoes on underwing pylons located outward and inward of its engines. The Be-6 carried 8 crew members, and mounted five 23mm cannons. Armament comprised twin NS-23 23-mm cannon in a tail turret (behind the twin fins and rudders) and similar provision in a remotely controlled dorsal barbette. A single NS-23 cannon was installed in the bow turret. The later version of the Be-6 is Soviet service mounted a Magnetic Anomaly Detector "MAD" "stinger" aft of its tail. This meant that the aft part of the rear fuselage had to be modified and rebuilt. It had a range of 4800km, and a normal ceiling of 6100 meters.

In the early 1960s the PLANAF received at least six, and as many as 20, Beriev Be-6, where they remained in service with the Chinese Navy until the late 1990s. These were not equipped with the MAD stinger. China didn't operate any of the Be-6's turboprop-powered successor, the Be-12, which was powered by the Ivchenko AI-20D, 4,000 shp engines. An unknown number of Be-6s were modified by the Chinese to replace the original 2000hp Shvetsov ASh-72 radial engines with 4,250-ehp WJ-6 turboprop engines, in new nacelles. These engines gave the aircraft, re-designated Qing-6, a whole new lease on life and gave it the ability to carry more offensive armament and avionics.

One of the peculiarities of the Chinese language is that it has a very large number of written characters but a much smaller number of spoken sounds. As a result, many Chinese characters share the same pronunciation, i.e. are homonyms. There are several Chinese characters called "Qing", and it is not immediately apparent which is meant in this case. The dragonfly (qingting) represents the Confucian ideal of pureness of character because its pronunciation is similar to the word for "pure" or "clear" (qing). The Four Divine Creatures, also known as the Four Heraldic Animals, Four Directional Animals, and Four Symbols, symbolize the four directions and an associated season - Azure Dragon (qinglong) is the east and spring. The most common meaning of qing3 is "please", however there are a number of other meanings, including "chime stone" or "congratulate". Pronounced ching, Qing might mean 'Clarity' 'Turquoise' or "Deep Water"]. The Qing dynasty [Ch'ing dynasty] was the last imperial dynasty of China (from 1644 to 1912) which was overthrown by revolutionaries; during the Qing dynasty China was ruled by the Manchu. In any event, the nomenclature was restricted to the Be-6 and not used for other aircraft.

The Qing-6 was followed by the mighty Harbin SH-5 Bomber/ASW flying boat. A superbly restored Beriev Be-6 is on display at the China Aviation Museum, Datangshan. This extremely rare aircraft is one of only three known Be-6s preserved anywhere. Although it carries the code 9886, having previously carried 98706, it is not known if either are genuine. All the planes in this museum received a new coat of paint in 2010. This plane had been used in flight shows for Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping and other party and country leaders. The somewhat remote Qingdao Naval Museum in North China has another fine example of the Beriev Be-6 on display.




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