Beriev Be-12 ‘Mail’

Aircraft Profile
Be-12P-200 RA-00046.
(photo, Leonid Faerberg)

Development

Two previously unknown types of large flying boat made their first appearance at the Soviet Aviation Day flypast of 1961. The swept wing, jet powered, Beriev Be-10 was one of the stars of the show; whilst another Beriev design, the turboprop engined Be-12 attracted little attention. Widely assumed to be a simple conversion of the 1949 vintage Be-6, the Be-12 was overlooked in many contemporary press reports. Not long after, however, the Soviet Naval Air Force chose the Be-12 to be the standard equipment of its coastal anti-submarine force, and the Be-10 was never to be seen in public again. Three decades on, the Be-12 was still in widespread service around Russia’s coasts, and had become renown for its versatility and robustness.

The Beriev Design Bureau, located at Taganrog near Rostov on the Azov Sea, has vast experience of designing ocean-going flying boats. Formed on August 6, 1934, with Georgii Mikhailovich Beriev as chief designer, it was responsible for the hugely successful MBR-2 short range reconnaissance flying boat of World War 2. This was followed in 1947 by the Be-6 (NATO code name ‘Madge’), a long range reconnaissance flying boat in a similar class to the Martin PBM Mariner, which featured a gull wing arrangement for mounting its two piston engines. Beriev’s next major design was the Be-10, a large twin-jet fast attack flying boat, with sharply swept wings and tail surfaces, powered by two Lyulka AL-7RV turbojets tucked under the wing roots.

In the late nineteen-fifties, the US Navy began development of the first Polaris nuclear missile submarines (the SSBN-608 USS George Washington class, first commissioned on December 30, 1959). Due to range and accuracy limitations, the Polaris A-1 missile needed to be launched from a position fairly close to the coast of the target country – especially one as large as the Soviet Union. Consequently, the AV-MF (Aviatsiya Voenno-Morskovo Flota – Soviet Naval Air Force) issued a requirement in 1956 for an aircraft capable of detecting and killing nuclear missile submarines in the coastal waters of the USSR.

It was anticipated that surface ships or shore based direction finding stations would indicate the approximate location of an enemy submarine. An ASW aircraft would then follow up with short range radar, MAD probe and sonobouys to locate and classify the target. An attack would then take place, usually in co-operation with surface ships. Although the Be-6 had been progressively updated, the AV-MF needed a larger aircraft capable of carrying all the necessary weapons and up-to-date sensor equipment.

Accordingly, while development of the Be-10 continued, Beriev began work on a completely new design for a slower more comprehensively equipped aircraft. In the late fifties, Beriev is thought to have flown an experimental Be-6 converted with turboprop engines. This probably led to consideration of a turboprop powered aircraft based on the Be-6 layout. In the event, the new design shared only the gull-wing layout and twin tail of the old Be-6. A design proposal was submitted to officials in November 1957 and soon accepted. The Be-12 was only slightly smaller than the Be-10, but much lighter, and with a similar hull shape.

Both the Be-10 and Be-12 were first revealed to the rest of the world at the Soviet Aviation Day Airshow at Tushino Airport, Moscow, on July 9, 1961. During the two hour flypast, a formation of four Be-10s was followed by a single example of the Be-12. Western observers were informed that the Be-10 had already entered AV-MF service, and assumed that the Be-12 was merely a one-off turboprop development of the ageing Be-6. The NATO reporting names ‘Mallow and ‘Mail’ were allocated to the Be-10 and Be-12 respectively. At this time, Western naval air forces were rapidly phasing out the use of maritime patrol flying boats, in favour of more efficient long-range landplane types such as the Lockheed P-3 Orion and Avro Shackleton, and it was widely expected that the Soviet Union would follow suit.

In the meantime, the AV-MF had discovered that the emphasis on performance had imposed serious limitations in the operational capability of the Be-10. Further development of the Be-10 was therefore cancelled in favour of using land-based Tupolev Tu-16 ‘Badger’ bombers adapted for the naval role. In contrast to the Be-10, the Be-12 prototypes were fitted with an extensive sensor fit, including a Magnetic Anomaly Detection probe, and a small internal weapons bay in the rear hull, as well as external wing pylons. The first prototype retained the retractable ‘dustbin’ search radar installation used on the Be-6, and made its first flight on 18 October 1960. Unfortunately it crashed on 24 November 1961 with the loss of 3 crew, after mishandling by the pilots. The second prototype feature a number of design changes, including relocation of the engines from below the wings to above the wings, and the addition of a prominent nose search radar in place of the ventral ‘dustbin’. It made its first flight in 1962 and immediately resumed service trials. With long endurance and the potential for taking over many of the Be-6s secondary roles as well, the Be-12 was approved for AV-MF service.

Series production started in 1963, at GAZ 86 at Taganrog. Production ceased in 1973 after a run of 143 aircraft (including prototypes). Production then switched to the Tupolev Tu-142 Bear-F. The Be-12 officially entered service with the AV-MF in Spring 1964. The semi-official nickname of ‘Tchaika'(Seagull) was quickly given because of its wing form. Its main role was ASW patrol, operating out to 345 nm (500 km, 310 miles) from shore. By 1967 the Be-12 had replaced the Be-6 in front-line duties and began to take on second line roles. These eventually included coastal surveillance, multi-sensor reconnaissance, anti-shipping patrol, photographic survey, naval co-operation, transport, and Search and Rescue.

The Be-12 made another airshow appearance on July 9, 1967. Three aircraft taxied out and took-off at the start of the military portion of the Soviet Aviation Day display at Domodedevo Airport. This time there was no mistaking their operational status.

Over the years, the Beriev Be-12 has gained a total of 44 FAI recognized world records for aircraft in its class – all the records possible! During the period October 23-27, 1964, a stripped down aircraft designated M-12 set six new climb to height records for Class C.3 Group II turboprop amphibians, including an altitude of 12,185 m (39,977 ft) without payload, and an altitude of 9,352 m (30,682 ft) with 10,000 kg (22,046 lb) payload. These were followed by various speed and payload records. A pure flying boat version, with landing gear deleted, has also established a number of records in Class C.2 Group II for turboprop flying boats, using the same M-12 designation.

A number of equipment improvements were made during and after the production run of the Be-12. The initial ASW avionics suite was progressively upgraded. The original drum-shaped nose radome was replaced from about 1970 by a new radome which was flattened top and bottom to an oval shape. This was noticeable because the original radome had been plain grey in colour, while the new shape was coloured white over it’s lower three-quarters. ESM receivers and a tail warning system were also added and the engines were upgraded from the AI-20D series 3 to the series 4 standard.

From the mid 1960s, US Navy SSBN submarines were progressively equipped to carry the improved Polaris A-3 missile, which featured a much longer range and enhanced accuracy. This allowed effective submarine operations to take place much further away from the Soviet coast. Thus the coastal ASW patrol role of the Be-12 declined in importance from 1970 onwards, in favour of more secondary roles. At the same time, anti-submarine operations were increasingly taken over by specialised shipboard ASW helicopters and more sophisticated Il-38 ‘May’ landplanes.

As a result, from 1972 onwards four surplus aircraft were converted to the high speed Search and Rescue role and designated Be-12PS (Poiskovo-Spasatelynyi – Search Rescue). Equipment changes included the removal of ASW equipment and the addition of a big fuselage door under the starboard wing trailing edge. Ten new-build aircraft were also produced to this standard. An earlier attempt at producing a dedicated SAR variant, the Be-14, had been abandoned as the extensive changes specified – including removal of the main weapons bay, installation of a floor inside the fuselage and removal of the MAD detector boom – proved too costly.

Like the Be-6 before it, the Be-12 took on many non-military tasks for the Soviet/Russian government, such as fishery protection, whaling patrol, Arctic base supply transport, mapping, geophysical survey, utility transport etc…these missions were flown by standard AV-MF aircraft. The aircraft is highly regarded by crews, being highly reliable and very manoeuvrable, with powerful responsive engines. However, flying in it is a test of endurance, since the noise and vibration from the engines is particularly penetrating.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Beriev factory attempted to gain commercial sales from various versions of the Be-12. Seven redundant ASW examples were acquired from the AV-MF in 1991 for refurbishment and conversion.

Two aircraft were converted to the fire-bomber role, designated Be-12P (Protivopozarnyi – Fire protection). The modifications included the addition of twin water scoops mounted behind the hull step, and the installation of a metal 4.5 tonne capacity water tank in the rear weapons bay. Two further 0.75 tonne capacity water tanks were fitted in the forward stores position behind the cockpit, with extra drop doors in the hull below. Small overflow portholes were also fitted in the upper fuselage over the water tanks. Conversion work took place at the Irkutsk factory in Northern Siberia near Lake Baikal, with thorough drop testing trials at Taganrog during 1992. The first prototype Be-12P was a refurbished ASW machine coded yellow 40. This machine flew in standard AV-MF colours. A second prototype, registered RA-00073, flew in demonstrator colours and has appeared at the MAKS Moscow air show. Beriev eventually abandoned certification plans in favour of the more capable Be-200 jet amphibian.

Three other ex-military aircraft were converted during 1992-93 to Be-12NKh cargo transport aircraft, with an enlarged cargo hatch in the fuselage and the removal of all ASW equipment. Unfortunately, two of the aircraft suffered accidents and this project was abandoned.

The aircraft was obviously extremely well built, since aircraft returned to Taganrog for conversion showed virtually no signs of corrosion after years of service.

The Be-12 has served with all four of the Soviet Fleet’s Naval Aviation forces during its career: Black Sea, Northern, Baltic and Pacific. Peak strength in the mid 1970s comprised four full aviation regiments (some twelve squadrons of eight aircraft each), together with a number of independent squadrons. During the 1970s some of these regiments partially re-equipped with the Ilyushin Il-38 ‘May’, but in 1990 the Be-12 still outnumbered the newcomer by 1.5:1. Very low attrition has kept the number in service at a steady 75-90 aircraft since the early 1980s.

In an attempt to improve the surveillance of the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, three Be-12s of the Black Sea Fleet deployed to Cairo West (and later to Mersa Matruh), Egypt, from 1968. The aircraft appeared in full Egyptian air force markings, including aircraft serial number 4385, but were AV-MF crewed and operated. These aircraft operated alongside AV-MF Tu-16s initially, and later with Il-38s, both types in Egyptian markings. The aircraft departed in July 1972 when President Sadat severed ties with the USSR.

Four aircraft were exported to Vietnam in 1981. Specially adapted to tropical operations these aircraft operated from Cam Ranh Bay, to watch over the US 7th Fleet. Reports of the Be-12 operating from Syria have not been substantiated. Despite some reports, the type was not supplied to China.

At midnight on December 31, 1991, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved and most its constituent states recombined as the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). The Russian Federation Navy took over operations of most former Soviet naval air force aircraft. Ukraine declined to join the CIS, and Russia was faced with ceding control of any Black Sea fleet aircraft and bases on Ukraine territory to the Ukrainian Navy. Fortunately, a deal was negotiated to divide the assets between the two countries.

According to official figures released in 1993, the Russian Navy had some 55 operational Be-12s in service (plus 22 in reserve storage), compared to only 36 Ilyushin Il-38s. By 2005 this number had dwindled to only twelve.

Whether hunting submarines, flying rescue missions or supplying Arctic bases, the versatile Be-12 amphibian has been faithfully serving the CIS and USSR for over forty years. With no direct replacement in sight, the Be-12 looks set to soldier on well into the 21st century. A remarkable record for an aircraft configuration regarded in the West as obsolete in 1960, four years before it even entered service.

Be-12 ‘6’. (photo, US Navy) Be-12 ’24’. (photo, US Navy)

Variants

Requirement Specification: Not known
Manufacturers Designation: Izdeliye ‘Ye’

Development History:
Be-12 1st prototype Two AI-20 engines mounted in nacelles under the wing. Initsiativa-2B Radar in retractable ventral ‘dustbin’, not in nose. Gun turret on rear fuselage. Wingtip anti-flutter weights added later.
Be-12 2nd prototype Engines located in nacelles above the wing. Nose mounted radar. Gun turret deleted.
Be-12 Initial production version of standard ASW variant. Cylindrical ‘drum’ radome for Initsiativa-2B nose radar. AI-20DK engines located above the wings. (Izdeliye Ye)
Be-12 Late production/retrofit. Initsiativa-2B radar in wider ‘oval section’ radome. AI-20DM engines. ESM receivers and RWR added. (Izdeliye Ye)
Be-12 Four aircraft with specially modified engines and equipment for tropical operation. Exported to Vietnam 1981.
Be-12 One aircraft fitted with dummy in-flight refuelling probe mounted above the nose for flight tests in the 1970s.
Be-12 Two aircraft modified to test Gagara-1 infra-red submarine sensor. Receiver head installed in special hatch behind weapons bay. 1968-70. One additional aircraft modified 1983 for testing improved Nablyudatel-1 IR sensor.
Be-12 One aircraft modified to test anti-icing systems. ASW equipment in cabin removed to accommodate test equipment and engineers. late 1960s-early 1970s.
M-12 Stripped-down example of Be-12 used for record breaking flights. All unnecessary equipment removed and engines tuned. Crew reduced to two. Holds 42 FAI world records for turboprop amphibians. Later returned to standard configuration.
Be-12EKO Designation applied to projected version for ecological monitoring. 1991. Not built
Be-12I Designation applied projected version for civil scientific research. Various sensors fitted. 1991. Not built
Be-12LL One aircraft modified to test homing system of 3M-80 ‘Moskit’ anti-shipping missile. Nose radar replaced by conical missile seeker head. Monitoring equipment in weapons bay. 1980.
Be-12N ASW version fitted with computer-controlled Nartsiss search/attack system. Revised avionics, new MAD sensor, Initsiativa-2BN radar, new sonobuoys. (Izdeliye YeN)
Be-12NKh Civil passenger/cargo transport version. ASW equipment removed and enlarged hatch installed. Additional cabin windows for passengers. Three Be-12 converted 1992-93.
Be-12P Fire-bomber version with MAD and ASW gear removed and 4500 lit tank installed in central hull and 2 x 750 lit tanks further forward – filled by water scoops. Water dumping system installed. Four Be-12 converted 1992. (Izdeliye YeP)
Be-12P-200 Fire-bomber version similar to Be-12P but used to test equipment intended for Be-200 amphibian. One Be-12 converted 1994.
Be-12PS Reduced specification maritime SAR variant carrying life rafts and survival kit in droppable capsules. Extra fuselage hatch under starboard wing trailing edge. 6 crew. MAD tail sting retained to maintain aircraft c.g. position. Daylight operation only. (Izdeliye 3Ye)
Be-12SK One aircraft converted to carry SK-1 nuclear depth charge. Electrically heated weapons bay. 1961. (Izdeliye YeSK)
Be-14 Advanced all-weather day/night SAR version with weapons bay replaced by flat floor space. Special SAR and medical equipment. Large door on port side. No MAD tail sting. 6 crew. AI-20D engines. Only one built. (Izdeliye 2Ye)
Be-12 ’25’ yellow at Monino Museum.
(photo, not known)
Be-12 ’20’ yellow.
(photo, Russian Navy)

History

Key Dates:
28 March 1956    Soviet Government issues official requirement for an aircraft to replace the Be-6.
November 1957    Be-12 initial design submitted for approval.
30 June 1960    First prototype Be-12 completed.
18 October 1960    Maiden flight of first prototype.
9 July 1961    First public appearance of first prototype – at Tushino airshow.
24 November 1961    First prototype crashes, with loss of 3 crew.
2 March 1962    Work begins on Be-14 variant.
September 1962    Second prototype Be-12 completed.
19 July 1963    State testing commences.
12 December 1963    First Be-12 production aircraft completed.
Spring 1964    Be-12 enters AV-MF service.
23-27 October 1964    M-12 makes initial series of record-setting flights.
20 April 1965    State testing finished.
1965    Be-14 prototype completed.
29 November 1968    Be-12 officially accepted for AV-MF service.
Summer 1972    First Be-12PS conversion completed.
November 1973    Series production ends with last new-build Be-12PS.
April 1976    Be-12N enters service.
27 April 1992    Prototype Be-12P firebomber makes maiden flight.
23 July 1993    Be-12P used to fight fire near village of Listvianka.
6-11 October 1994    Be-12NKh used to deliver 30T of cargo to earthquake victims in Yuzhno-Kurilsk.
Be-12 ’83’. (photo, US Navy) Be-12 ’85’ yellow. (photo, US Navy)

Operators

Military Operators

“Egypt” (3 AV-MF aircraft in UAR markings 1968-71)
Russia – AV-MF (navy)+VVS (air force) 140 Be-12/Be-12PS/Be-12N aircraft
Ukraine – Navy 14 Be-12/Be-12PS/Be-12N aircraft
Vietnam – Air Force 4 Be-12

Government Agencies

Russia – Avialesoochrana (Federal Forestry Service) 2 Be-12P

Civilian Operators

TANTK Beriev various for test and sales demonstrations
Be-12P demonstrator RA-00073 taxying.
(photo, Gerard Helmer)
Front view of Be-12 showing the hull shape.
(photo, Peter de Jong)

Specifications

Beriev Be-12
Accomodation: Four: 2 pilots, navigator, radio/sensors operator
Dimensions: Length 30.11 m (98 ft 9 in); Height 7.94 m (26 ft 1 in); Wing Span 29.84 m (97 ft 11 in); Wing Area 99.00 sq m (1,066 sq ft)
Engines: Two 3,863 kW (5,180 shp) ZMDB Progress (Ivchenko) AI-20DK or AI-20DM turboprop engines.
Weights: Empty operating 24,500 kg (54,013 lb), Max Take-off 36,000 kg (79,366 lb).
Performance: Max. Level Speed 285 kts (530 km/h, 329 mph) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m); Cruising speed 173 kts (320 km/h, 199 mph) at 1000 ft (300 m); Initial rate of climb 912 m (2,990 ft) per minute; Service ceiling 11,000 m (36,090 ft) reduced to 8,000 m (26,246 ft) during service; Range with full payload 810 nm (1500 km, 932 miles); Max ferry range with full equipment 4047 nm (7500 km, 4660 miles).
Armament: Depth charges and sonobuoys in internal fuselage bays. Provision for one large and one small external stores pylon under each outer wing panel, for mines, bombs, Anti Shipping Missiles and homing torpedoes or rockets. Maximum weapons load 3000 kg (6,614 lb), normal weapons load 1500 kg (3307 lb).
Water take-off for the Be-12P-200.
(photo, Jos Schoofs)
The distinctive taxi stance of the Be-12P-200.
(photo, Jim Newton)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: G.M. Beriev (basic design), Viktor Ponomaryov (civil conversions)
Design Offices: OKB Beriev, 1 Aviatorov Square, 347923, Taganrog, Russia*

Manufacture

GAZ-86*
(Taganrog)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Be-12 prototypes 2 Taganrog 1959-Sept 1962
Be-12 130 Taganrog 1963-June 1973
Be-14 1 Taganrog 1965
Be-12PS 10 + 4 conv. Taganrog/Yevpatoria 1972-Nov 1973
Be-12N (27 conv.) Yevpatoria 1976-1977
Be-12NKh (2 conv.) Taganrog 1992-1993
Be-12P (4 conv.) Irkutsk 1992-1994
Be-12P-200 (1 conv.) Taganrog 1995
Total: 143    

Total Produced: 143 a/c (all variants)
* later Joint Stock Company TANTK named for G.M. Beriev, Taganrog.

Production List

‘More Than Half a Century of Soviet Transports’ Aviation Hobby Shop
by Peter Hilman et al.
The Aviation Hobby Shop, UK, June 2004   ISBN: ?
* Includes Be-12 production list

 
Topside pass for the Be-12P-200.
(photo, Jos Schoofs)
 

More Information

Books

‘Beriev Be-12 Amphibian Aircraft’ (AviaPress Bookshop)
by Anatoliy Artemyev
Major, Ukraine, 2001   ISBN: 5 93445 007 7
* Very well illustrated history of the Be-12, with scale plans. English summary text.

‘Samolety TANTK G.M. Berieva 1945-1968’ (AviaPress Bookshop)
by G.S. Panatov, A.N. Zablotskii i A.I. Sal’nikov

Restart+, Russia, 2001    ISBN: 5 94141 003 4
* Detailed history of all postwar Beriev aircraft, including unbuilt projects. Many illustrations.

‘Samolet-amfibija Be-12’ (AviaPress Booskhop)
by A.N. Zablotskii
Eksprint, Russia, 2001   ISBN: 5-94038-016-6
* Complete history of the Be-12, with many photos.

‘Protivolodochnye Samolety’ (AviaPress Booskhop)
by Anatoliy Artemyev
AST, Russia, Jan 2002   ISBN: 5 27103 870 X
* Comprehensive history of postwar AV-MF ASW aircraft, including 5 chapters on the Be-12.

International Air Power Review Vol.4
AIRtime Publishing, UK, Spring 2002    ISBN: 1 880588 38 2
* Includes 14 page Variant File article on the Be-12

Magazines

Aviatsija i Vremya No.3 1997
* Beriev Be-12 amphibious aircraft story + scale plans
Aviatsiya Aviation Magazine No.12bis
* Feature articles on various Beriev aircraft
Air International August 1995
* Includes feature article on the Be-12 with cutaway drawing

Links

Beriev.com
* The official Beriev website

Airliners.net
* 2 pages of good quality photos

Sea Wings: Beriev Be-12 ‘Mail’ Gallery
* 28 colour photos

Wikipedia: Beriev Be-12
* Brief history and spec

Beriev Be-12 Chaika
* Be-12 photographic walk-around

Wings Palette
* 5 col profiles of Be-12s, including the prototype

Amphibian Be-12
* Brief history, description, spec

Global Security.com
* Brief history, spec, photos

Moscow Airshow
* 6 photos of the Be-12P-200

Russian Warrior
* Spec plus several USN/NATO b+w intercept photos of Be-12s in action

Airplane Be-12P-200
* Features, photo, spec, 3-view drwg

HydroAviation Show, Gelendzhik
* Several nice Be-12P-200 firebomber photos (including interior)

Be-12 Chaika
* Russian text profile: history, variants, spec, photos, drwg)

Sevastopol Fleet
* 8 good photos of Be-12s in current AV-MF service.

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
Beriev Be-12 ‘Mail’ Plans Gallery

Videos:

To be added.

Beriev MBR-2

Aircraft Profile
MBR-2bis – note the uncowled engine.
(photo, via author)

Development

Russian seaplane development made reasonable advances during the final decade of the Tsarist government, with such types as the Grigorovitch biplanes – which were virtually copies of the Austrian Lohner flying-boat. But after the Bolshevik revolution it languished owing to the poor state of the Soviet economy. Little interest was shown until the 1920s when a requirement was issued for a reconnaissance type for use with coastal units on the Baltic and Black Seas.

The requirement was met by Georgii Mikhailovich Beriev, who at the age of 22 joined a new design bureau which was established in 1928 by a French designer, Paul-Aime Richard. The bureau was involved in developing an all-metal twin-engined twin-float seaplane, the TOM.1, sea-going torpedo aircraft of which Beriev designed most of the structural components. In 1930 Beriev left Richard to join the TsKB in Moscow where he was appointed chief designer.

By 1932 when licenced production of the Italian SIAI-Marchetti SM.62bis (MBR-4) had begun at Taganrog, Beriev had finished the design of a flying-boat which was designated MBR-2 (Morskoy Blizhnii Razvedchik) or Naval Short-Range Reconnaissance. The prototype of which had begun its flight test programme.

A shoulder wing monoplane of all wood construction (except for the metal fin & rudder) powered by a BMW VI.Z 12-cylinder water-cooled engine mounted above the centre section of the wing on ‘N’ struts and driving a four-bladed wooden airscrew in the pusher mode. The engine being rated at 730 hp at take-off and 500 hp for cruise, the aircraft attained a maximum speed of 129 mph with a ceiling of 14,436 ft. The MBR-2 possessed good hydrodynamic qualities and in 1934 entered production at Taganrog where Beriev transferred his bureau from Moscow. The type became the successor to the Italian designed S.62 which was known by the Soviets as the MBR.4.

The production version of the MBR-2 was powered by the licence built BMW known as the M-17b. Some minor modifications added extra weight to the aircraft bringing the maximum speed down to 124 mph. Maximum range was 715 miles. Armament comprised a 7.62 mm machine gun in the bows and also in a dorsal position aft of the wing and 661 lbs of bombs or mines could carried on racks under the wings.

In 1936 the MBR-2 became the standard reconnaissance flying boat of the Soviet Navy, often being fitted with alternative wheel or ski undercarriage for land operations. A commercial version was designed in 1934 as the MP-1 (Morskoy Passazhersky), which accommodated 6 passengers and a crew of 2, one of which operated on passenger routes between Odessa and Batumy. The prototype MP-1bis established various international records in May 1937 being flown by female pilot P.D. Osipenko.

The original military version was later modified by incorporating an enclosed cockpit replacing the original open version and a re-designed vertical tail surface plus the new Mikulin AM-34n engine which was rated at 830 hp and drove a 3-bladed metal airscrew.

The favourable characteristics of the MBR-2 was extremely liked by its crew and left little to be desired. It remained in service during the Second World War even though the production terminated in 1941 when more than 1,300 MBR-2s and MP-1 had been manufactured at Taganrog. The Beriev design bureau continued to develop water-borne aircraft up until today.

(served in Northern and Black Sea Fleets for recce/ASR duties trougout WW2 – and long after in fishery prostection and allied roles.

MBR-2 ‘9’ again with an uncowled engine.
(photo, via author)

Variants

Requirement Specification: Not known
Manufacturers Designation: Not known

Development History:
TsKB-25 First prototype, intended for M-27 engine but fitted with 500 hp BMW VI.F engine. Wing area 52.7 m2.
MBR-2 Initial production version. Wing area increased to 55 m2. Square topped fin & rudder. Open cockpit and gun positions, provision for wheel/ski undercarriage. 7.62 mm PV-1 machine guns. 3 small portholes added in fuselage. One 680 hp M-17B engine.
MBR-2bis Late production version. Enclosed cockpit, dorsal turret, larger pointed fin and rudder, beefed-up structure. One 860 hp AM-34NB engine in new oval nacelle shape. Later production with increased fuel capacity.
MBR-2/M-17b Alternative designation for early production MBR-2.
MBR-2/AM-34 Alternative designation for MBR-2bis.
MBR-2/M-34FN Projected version of MBR-2bis with M-34FN engine. Not built.
MBR-2/M-103 Designation for modernised version of MBR-2bis with M-103 engine. One conversion in 1937. No production due to lack of engines.
MBR-2 VU Several dozen MBR-2 converted for co-operation with torpedo boats. 5-seater with extra cabin for radio operators.
MBR-2bis VU Several MBR-2bis converted for co-operation with torpedo boats. 5-seater with extra cabin for radio operators.
MBR-2 One-off staff transport conversion. 1936. Eight seats.
MBR-2 Several dozen M-17B engined versions upgraded with MBR-2bis-style tail.
MP-1 6-passenger civil transport version of MBR-2. Enlarged porthole windows, sound-proofed cabin, bow gun position faired over, boarding hatch in place of rear gun position. One 500 hp M-17B engine.
MP-1 Photo survey version – at least 2 converted.
MP-1T Civil freighter (Tranportny) version of ex-military MBR-2. Strengthened cabin floor and freight loading hatch added. Armament deleted. One 500 hp M-17B engine.
MP-1bis Civil transport version of MBR-2bis. Armament deleted. One 750 hp AM-34B engine.
MP-1bis Photo survey version – at least 7 converted.
MP-1Tbis Civil freighter (Tranportny) version of ex-military MBR-2bis. Strengthened cabin floor and freight loading hatch added. Armament deleted.
MBR-7 Alternative designation for MBR-2/M-103.
Be-2 Designation erroneously attributed to MBR-2bis – actually it was the KOR-1.
Mote ASCC reporting name assigned for use by NATO in 1954.
Passenger transport MP-1bis with fuselage
windows. (photo, via author)

History

Key Dates:
1930?    Soviet Government issues official requirement for an aircraft to replace the S.62bis
May 1931    Design for TsKB-25 initiated.
Autumn 1931    Design work halted while replacement for M-27 engine sought.
December 1931    First prototype TsKB-25 completed.
3 May 1932    Maiden flight of TsKB-25 prototype at Sevastopol.
10 January 1933    State acceptance trials commenced.
August 1933    TskB-25 accepted for service as MBR-2.
late 1933    Start of MBR-2 series production.
9 February 1934    State acceptance trials completed.
1934    MP-1 first flight.
spring 1934    MBR-2 enters AV-MF service.
1934    Initial MP-1 deliveries to Aeroflot.
1935    Redesign produces MBR-2bis.
May 1936    MP-1 enters passenger service with Aeroflot.
1936    MP-1T enters service with Aeroflot.
22-25 May 1937    International altitude records set by P.D. Osipenko in MP-1bis prototype.
1937    MP-1bis enters passenger service with Aeroflot.
1937    Testing of MBR-7 improved version.
2 July 1938    Distance record of 2,416 km in 10 hrs 33 mins set by P.D Osipenko in MP-1bis.
August 1938    First combat use of MBR-2bis in battle of Lake Khasan against Japanese.
1940    Series production ends with last new-build MBR-2bis.
1946    MBR-2bis finally withdrawn from AV-MF service.
1954?    MP-1bis withdrawn from fishery patrol service.
Finnish MBR-2bis VV-181 seen at Hirviranta,
near Joensuu on Lake Höytiainen in Autumn 1941
(photo, via author)

Operators

Military Operators

Finland – Air Force 2 MBR-2 & 3 MBR-2bis (captured)
North Korea – Air Force some MBR-2bis
USSR – AV-MF (navy) MBR-2 & MBR-2bis aircraft

Government Agencies

USSR – People’s Commissariat for Fishery MP-1T & MP-1bis
USSR – Administration of the Topographic-Geodesic Service MP-1 & MP-1bis

Civilian Operators

USSR – Aeroflot MP-1 & MP-1bis
USSR – Polyarnaya Aviatsiya (Polar Aviation) MP-1T

Specifications

Beriev MBR-2
Accomodation: three or four: front gunner/navigator, one or two pilots, rear gunner/radio operator
Dimensions: Length 44 ft 3.75 in (13.5 m); Height 17 ft 9 in (5.42 m); Wing Span 62 ft 4 in (19.0 m); Wing Area 592 sq ft (55.00 sq m)
Engines: One 680 hp M-17b (BMW VI) 12-cylinder Vee water cooled engine.
Weights: Empty operating 5456 lb (2475 kg), Max Take-off 9039 lb (4100 kg).
Performance: Max. Level Speed 126 mph (203 km/h) at 6,560 ft (2,000 m); Cruising speed 99 mph (160 km/h); Climb to 1,000 m (3280 ft) in 5.5 minutes; Service ceiling 14,400 ft (4,400 m); Normal Range 405 miles (650 km).
Armament: One 7.62 mm DA machine-gun each in open bow and dorsal positions. Maximum weapons load 661 lb (300 kg) of bombs, mines or depth-charges under inner wings.
Beriev MBR-2bis
Accomodation: three or four: front gunner/navigator, one or two pilots, rear gunner/radio operator
Dimensions: Length 44 ft 3.75 in (13.5 m); Height 16 ft 5.5 in (5.02 m); Wing Span 62 ft 4 in (19.0 m); Wing Area 592 sq ft (55.00 sq m)
Engines: One 860 hp Mikulin AM-34NB 12-cylinder Vee water cooled engine.
Weights: Empty operating 7024 lb (3186 kg), Max Take-off 9359 lb (4245 kg).
Performance: Max. Level Speed 171 mph (275 km/h) at 6,560 ft (2,000 m); Climb to 1,000 m (3280 ft) in 5.0 minutes; Service ceiling 23,450 ft (7,150 m); Normal Range 498 miles (800 km).
Armament: One 7.62 mm ShKAS machine-gun each in open bow position and manually operated dorsal turret. Maximum weapons load 661 lb (300 kg) of bombs, mines or depth-charges under inner wings.
MBR-2bis ’11’ taking off. (photo, via author)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: G.M. Beriev
Design Offices: Prototype: Central Design Office of Marine Shipbuilding (CCB), Moscow. Production (1932+): OKB Beriev, 1 Aviatorov Square, 347923, Taganrog, Russia

Manufacture

GAZ-10/Zavod 31
(Taganrog)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
TsKB-25 prototype 1 Zavod 39* 1931-1932
MBR-2 450+? Taganrog late 1933-1935
MP-1 prototype 1 Taganrog 1934
MP-1 75+ Taganrog 1934-1937
MBR-2bis 750+? Taganrog 1935-1940
MP-1T (? conv.) Taganrog? 1935-1940
MP-1bis 50+ Taganrog 1936-1939
Total: 1365    

Total Produced: 1365 a/c (all variants)
* Zavod 39 = Menshinskii, Moscow.

Production List

To be added.

More Information

Books

‘MBR-2: Pervyi Gidrosamolet G.M. Berieva’ (AviaPress Bookshop)
by A.N. Zablotskii i A.I. Sal’nikov
Restart, Russia, Jan 2003   ISBN: 5 94141 006 9
* Very well illustrated history of the MBR-2. Russian text.

‘Illiustrirovannaia Entsiklopediia Samoletov TANTK Im. G.M. Berieva 1932-1945’ (AviaPress Bookshop)
by G.S. Panatov i K.G. Udalov
Aviko Press, Russia, 1998    ISBN: 5 86309 000 4
* Detailed history of all early Beriev aircraft, including unbuilt projects. Many illustrations.

‘Aircraft of the Fighting Powers Vol.III’
by H.J. Cooper & O.G. Thetford
Harborough Publishing, 1942    ISBN: n/a
* Includes short profile and fold-out 3-view line drawing.

‘Flying-Boats & Seaplanes since 1910’
by Kenneth Munson
Blandford Press, 1971    ISBN: 0 7137 0537 X
* Includes short profile and 2-view colour drawing.

‘Soviet Aircraft & Aviation 1917-1941’
by Lennart Andersson
Putnam, 1994    ISBN: 0 85177 859 3
* Includes 3 pages on the MBR-2.

‘The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875-1995’
by Bill Gunston
Osprey Publishing, 1995    ISBN: 1 85532 405 9
* Includes a detailed entry for the MBR-2.

Magazines

Aeroplane Monthly May 1967
IPMS Mallari No.48 (Finnish text, includes drawings)
Mir Aviatsii No.2 2000
Aviatsija i Vremya No.1 2004 (includes scale drawings)
Aviatsija Aviation Magazine No.12bis
Avions Nos.66 & 67

Links

Beriev.com
* The official Beriev website

Wikipedia: Beriev MBR-2
* Very brief history and spec

Wings Palette
* 21 col profiles of MBR-2/MP-1 aircraft, including the prototype

Russian Warrior
* Spec plus brief operational history

Beriev MBR-2
* Brief info on aircraft captured by Finland

Warbird Photo Album
* 4 photos of MBR-2 aircraft

Beriev MBR-2
* Short history and spec

MBR-2
* Outline history and spec

MP-1, MP-1bis
* Outline history and spec

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
Roy Tassell has a nice 1/36 scale drawing of the MBR-2.

Videos:

To be added.

Soviet Early Maritime Patrol Aircraft:
The Beriev Bureau’s Role

The early history of the Soviet Union’s maritime patrol aircraft was centered on the once vaunted Beriev Design Bureau which was organized by the famous Georgy M. Beriev. The bureau origins dated to October 1934 when it was organized as the Central Design Bureau of Seaplanes Manufacturing. The bureau was the primary contractor for some of the Soviet Union’s Second World War seaplanes designs including the massive MDR-5 long range maritime reconnaissance platform as well as the MDR-7. Neither design made it out of the mockup stage. There were other wartime designs that, although very promising, never made it out of its conceptual stages. One that did make it was the MDR-10 flying boat. After the war, the MDR-10 program was renamed the LL-143 project. The double Ls refer to Letayushchaya Lodka or flying boats. The 143 was to be powered by two powerful Shvetsov ASh72 piston engines. Construction of the first two prototype planes commenced at Factory 477 in Krasnoyarsk in 1944. A year later, the first completed aircraft was transported to Taganrog where in September 6th 1945 it made its maiden flight. By next February, the Beriev Bureau move its design and developing operations to Taganrog. In June 1945, the bureau became the State Union Experimental Plant No. 49. Plant No. 49 became the USSR’s only research and developing facility dedicated to the design and production of flying boats. Georgy M. Beriev became the new organization’s first director that summer.

Following the advances made during the Great Patriotic War, the bureau began to modify the blueprints of the second LL-143 model. The new design featured the introduction of the advance ASh73 engines as well as a new inboard radar system. The new aircraft, now renamed the be-6, took to the air for the first time in the morning hours of June 2nd 1948. This model quickly became the standard measure of every Beriev design. The next version of the seaplane, the Be-6M was able to carry a powerful set of offensive weapon systems such as a five cannon arrangement, plus its assortment of free-fall bombs, mines and torpedoes. The Be-6, codename Madge by NATO forces, production run lasted between the years 1952 to 1957. A total 123 aircraft were delivered. The next Beriev design was a 1948’s proposal codenamed Be-10. The 10’s design was similar to the Be-6. The only appreciated difference between the two crafts was that the Be-10 would have posed a tricycle undercarriage for ground operations. The Be-10 never made it out of the blueprint stage.

As aviation began to shift from propeller-driven aircraft to the new jet engine flying machines, so did Beriev’s designs. The fist all jet Beriev design was the revolutionary R-1 platform. The bureau’s experimentation with jet engines actually commenced during the later stages of development of the Be-6 platform. In 1947, and with official authorization, Beriev designed a seaplane based on the powerful British Nene jet engine. The R-1 would have the engines mounted on the upper wing structure in order to keep the engines clear of water spray when splashdown is performed. On June 1948, the soviet Ministry of Defense (SovMin) gave the official order to proceed with the program. The program continued its progression, although at a slower pace, until June 1950 when the project was revised completely. The new design would now incorporate the Soviet-built VK-1 jet engines. The aircraft’s first mockup was completed in the summer of 1951 and the first prototype was finished by the middle of 1951. On November 22nd 1951, the R-1 commenced its first set of taxi trials. The trial revealed a new phenomenon affecting seaplanes fitted with jet engines. The Hydro-dynamic Instability Barrier Effect which made the R-1 suffered severed porpoising at nearly 80% of the take-off speed. The problem was semi-corrected (it was brought to a manageable level) with modifications to the plane’s elevator and tailplane compensation mechanism. Taxing testing resumed in April 1952 and in May 30th, it took to the air for the first time. The R-1 flew several times before an October 3rd incident when water poured into the jet engine nuzzles during an attempted take-off. Although the damage was repaired, this incident put the whole program in the spotlight. Calls were beginning to come from many quarters supporting the cancellation of the entire R-1 program. Nevertheless, the program continued and on July 18th 1953, flight testing resumed. The final R-1 test flight came on February 1956 when the only prototype was severely damage during a landing operation. The program was cancelled soon afterward. Although the program was considered a failure by high ranking Soviet officials, the program did collected valuable data related to the performance of a sea-based aircraft utilizing jet engines for propulsion, data that would find its way to others Beriev’s seaplanes.

Next for the bureau was the R-2 program, a project that did not make it out of the designing board. After the R-2 came the Be-10 program which would incorporate the data recollected on the R-1 aircraft. The 10 was first conceived as a reconnaissance/strike flying boat capable to engaging enemy vessels. The program commenced in earnest on October 8th 1953 when the commander of the Soviet Naval Aviation, Admiral of the Fleet NG Kuznetsov, supported a SovMin resolution ordering the development of a long range reconnaissance platform. From the beginning, the Be-10 was designed primarily as a major offensive flying-boat. The Be-10’s offensive arsenal was carried on a massive bomb-bay with doors on the bottom of the aircraft’s hull, behind the step. A moderate, sweepback wing structure was introduced on the new plane. The first prototype was completed by October 1955. Because of the upcoming winter conditions on the Taganrog area, the new plane was not able to perform any taxing test. The aircraft was moved to a new, more plausible testing site at Gelendzhik. The Be-10 performed its maiden flight on the afternoon of June 20th 1956. The testing phase went without a glitch and by the middle of 1958 the Soviet Navy placed an order for fifty of these huge seaplanes. The production line of the Be-10 ran between 1958 and the spring of 1961. In all, twenty seven fully equipped aircraft were delivered. When the aircraft entered service in the summer of 1959, it had the distinction of being the world’s only jet-powered operational seaplane, an honor it would enjoy for years. The Be-10 or Mallow as codenamed by NATO was finally retired from front line service in August 1963. The reason was poor structural conditioning. In fact, by mid 1963, two of the 10s crashed with heavy loss of life. The follow-on plane to the Be-10 would be the Be-10N. The 10N was designed with a much larger payload capacity in order to carry two of the new K-12BS anti-ship cruise missiles. The missiles were capable of carrying either conventional or nuclear tipped warheads. The 10N would have been able to take-off with a maximum weight of 106,920lb. Its operational range was designed to be nearly 1000 nautical miles. Nevertheless, the 10N design never made it out of the mockup stages. By August 1960, the SovMin cancelled further research into this new version of the Be-10.

The bureau next design, the Be-12 would make it out of the design table. The 12 was original conceived as a pure attack aircraft. To achieve the plane’s profile, several new additions were implemented on the design. Chief among them was the incorporation of a new, more powerful Initsiativa radar array system. The seaplane was also fitted with a detection and sighting mechanism, a powerful magnetometer, a sonobuoys system, an anti-submarine weapons array that includes the latest on Soviet torpedoes and depth charges. Work commenced on the new plane in the spring of 1958. The 12 developing stage took, from the design table to the tarmac, four full years, reflecting the program’s complexity. On the afternoon of October 18th 1960, the sole Be-12 prototype took to the air on its first flight. The aircraft performed flawlessly. The 12 was very similar, aerodynamically, to the early Be-6. The fuselage was longer and it posses a ground undercarriage for tarmac operations. The SovMin approved the full production of the Be-12 in December 1960. A total of 143 units were built by the Beriev Bureau between the spring of 1963 and the summer of 1973. The 12, NATO codename Mail, became operational with the Soviet Navy in the spring of 1964. The plane became the mainstay of the Naval Aviation anti-submarine effort from it achieved full operational status.

The success of the Be-12 did not translate on the next Beriev’s designs. In the autumn of 1962, the bureau began to conceive a design for a heavy load, long range seaplane intended sorely for anti-submarine warfare. No name was giving to this “new” project. But there were few data bits related to this so-called effort. The new design would have carried four Kuznetsov NK12-M turboprop engines, supplemented by two Lyulka AL7-PB jet engines for short take-off assistance. Although the “program” never even made it to the design table, the plane’s profile would become the cornerstone of a massive effort called Project LL-600. The LL-600 program called for the seaplane to shift its profile from a pure anti-submarine/reconnaissance platform to a bomber or even a commercial airliner profile. The project proved to be too ambitious and it was cancelled by the middle of the 1960s.

By the winter of 1963, preliminary studies were made inside the Soviet Union regarding the feasibility of developing a long range, heavy payload seaplane capable of operating equally from water and land. In fact, the studies suggested a type of Short Take-Off air platform. A huge leap in technology, but one that Beriev’s engineering team believes that it could accomplish. The Be-26, as the program was codenamed, would be fitted with sixteen RD-35-36 lift jet engines. Eight of them per side in clusters around the wing root leading and trailing edges. The 26 would also be able to refuel from surfacing submarines or air tankers, extending the aircraft’s operational range. The numbers that Beriev’s team began to put out about the 26 capability profile were impressive. The seaplane would operate at a top service ceiling of 42,651ft with a top operational range of 7,272 nautical miles. Notwithstanding these impressive figures, the Be-26 proved to be too technical challenging and the program never made it out of the drawing board.

There were two other projects worth mentioned regarding Beriev’s relationship with early Soviet seaplane development. They are the impressive A-150 design and the more practical A-40 program. The 150 would have been a massive, delta wing shaped seaplane capable of being a true multi-role seaplane. The 150 would have delivered a powerful punch. It would have been a reconnaissance platform as well as a search and rescue vessel, an anti-sub and anti-ship platform and a deep penetration bomber. Just like the Be-26, this design would have STOL capabilities. But, as with the 26, the technical implications were too high at the time, so the project was abandoned. The A-40 program was another story. In 1976 the Beriev bureau began to research the feasibility of designing a next generation anti-submarine seaplane. In 1983, Soviet Government chief Designer AK Konstantinov issued an order to Beriev to proceed, officially, with the program. The A-40 was conceived as a replacement for the now venerable Be-12 and even to replace the Ilyushin Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft. The 40 mission profile called for it to perform reconnaissance and anti-submarine and shipping operations in medium range areas. The aircraft was to be powered by two Soloviev D30KPV jet engines supplemented by two Klimov RD60Ks engines. Two of these aircraft were eventually built. The first unit took to the air on December 1986. It was revealed to the world at the Tushino Air Show in august 1989. Codenamed Mermaid by NATO officials, the A-40 began a slight transformation phase which culminated in 2002 with the delivered of the first A-42 version. The 42 is be powered by a D-27a profane engines and it had a more powerful avionics package than its predecessor.

With the delivering of the A-42, the Beriev Bureau ceased to be the more important player in now Russia’s seaplane development programs. The mantle was now in the Tupolev’s Bureau hands.

– Raul Colon

References:

Beriev Be-10 “Mallow” – Russia’s Last Flying Boat, Aleksandr Zablotskiy, International Air Power Review Vol. 8, 2003
Russian X-Planes, Alan Dawes, Key Publishing 2001
Soviet Seaplane Jet Bombers, Thomas Mueller and Jens Baganz, Aerospace Projects Review, July-August 2003