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Be-12 amphibian to lay self-learning minefields

Upgraded Be-12 amphibious aircraft will carry self-learning minefields. The flying boat can drop them in any part of the sea and artificial intellect will set up a minefield. The high-tech munitions can identify warships, submarines and even low-flying helicopters by the sound, magnetic field and acoustic portrait. The new weapon considerably increases the capabilities of the Russian Navy, the Izvestia daily writes.

Be 12 amphibian to lay self learning minefields A Beriev Be-12PS "Chayka" during take-off roll (Picture source: Dmitry Terekhov)

The complex is highly ready. Trials will be completed this year and the engagement concept is being drafted, the Navy told the newspaper.

Be-12 is the oldest airplane in the Russian fleet. It made the maiden flight in 1960 and the production ended in 1973. The flying boat develops a speed of 550 km/h, but sticks to 320 km/h cruising speed on patrol. It can loiter over three hours at a distance of 600 km from the base. The combat payload ranges from 1.5 to 3 tons.

Be-12 was designed as an antisubmarine amphibious aircraft and today there are various modernization options. The first upgraded Be-12 had the equipment fully replaced and can carry upgraded depth bombs, torpedoes and mines.

There are two dozen combinations of weapons which depend on the situation. The amphibian carries them inside and on suspension. Despite a major age, Be-12 is still operated in major numbers, expert Dmitry Boltenkov said.

"The modernization and equipment replacement free internal space of the aircraft for additional equipment. The minefields are in demand mostly in the Black Sea near Crimea for counter-landing operations," he said.

Self-learning minefields are a new Russian design. They comprise robotic mines and a special control unit. All warships and submarines, as well as naval, tactical and strategic aviation will be able to carry the minefields after minor upgrade.

Upon release the mines automatically take the combat order. They react to magnetic and acoustic fields of warships and submarines. The mine has sensors for that and the hardware runs a special self-learning algorithm to determine warship class and distinguish between friend and foe. The software has acoustic portraits of friendly and adversary warships. These "passports" help identify a warship or submarine in the destruction zone. The friendly warships will be safe in the zone, while the adversary will be destroyed.

Mines can operate solo or in a group. The smart minefield can adjust to new missions. Thus, in case of a group attack it will ignore minesweepers and explode only big warships.

Mines are constantly upgraded with modern technologies and remain very dangerous for warships, former Navy Chief-of-Staff Admiral Valentin Selivanov said. "The Russian Navy is limited in mine-laying means today. Be-12 is a good option for the mission, as it has numerous advantages. It can fly slowly which is important for precision mine-laying. Only aviation can quickly and covertly lay mines. A warship is quickly detected by the adversary," he said.

"No aircraft re-equipment is necessary, as it is armed with submarine detection buoys which are descended on parachutes and have a weight comparable to mines. The aircraft can covertly approach the assigned area and precisely lay minefields. It can mine the fairway or deployment area of adversary warships and submarines," he told the Izvestia.

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