Russia dusts off Cold War-era Beriev Be-12 floatplanes to detect Ukrainian naval drones


According to Business Insider India, in a twist that could be straight out of a spy novel, Russia is reaching deep into its Cold War playbook to counter Ukraine's cutting-edge maritime drone technology. Believe it or not, the Russian Navy is deploying its Beriev Be-12 amphibious aircraft—vintage models that first took to the skies when the Beatles were still together—to tackle the modern dilemma of Ukrainian naval drones. These drones have become a thorn in the side of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and Moscow is betting that its upgraded but aged Beriev Be-12s can rise to the challenge.

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Russia Dusts Off Cold War Era Beriev Be 12 Planes to Face 21st Century Ukrainian Sea Drones 925 001

The Beriev Be-12 Chayka ("Seagull", NATO reporting name: Mail) is a Soviet turboprop-powered amphibious aircraft designed for anti-submarine and maritime patrol duties, and now naval drones (Picture source:  Romanoff via airforce.ru.)


Over the past two months, Ukraine has ramped up its operations against Russia's Black Sea Fleet, despite lacking a traditional navy. The Ukrainian military has unleashed cruise missile strikes on vital shipyards and fleet headquarters, while also deploying uncrewed surface vessels, or naval drones, against Russian naval assets. These cost-effective drones, laden with explosives, have emerged as a significant challenge for Russia.

Ukraine is ambitiously developing what it describes as "the world's first naval drone fleet." These maritime drones have already inflicted damage on Russian vessels, including the Olenegorsky Gornyak and the merchant tanker Sig. While Russia's Defense Ministry has disputed these claims, it continues to seek effective countermeasures against these maritime threats.

The Beriev Be-12, which made its maiden flight in 1960, is no ordinary aircraft. Designed with a V-shaped arched wing for water takeoffs and a ship-like lower fuselage for water landings, even in stormy conditions, the Be-12 is a relic with remarkable capabilities. It is powered by Soviet-era turboprop engines, adding a layer of nostalgia to its modernized capabilities. The aircraft can fly at speeds exceeding 500 km/h and has a fuel reserve that allows for missions spanning over 4,000 km or lasting several hours. The aircraft is armed with an array of mines, torpedoes, and bombs.

In 2018, the Russian Navy decided to breathe new life into these aging aircraft. The modernization equipped the Be-12 with a completely new targeting system and modern weaponry. Despite being the oldest aircraft still in operation within the Russian armed forces, the upgraded Be-12s are expected to radically enhance Russia's reconnaissance capabilities against enemy submarines through hydro-acoustic, radar, and magnetic detection systems. The aircraft will also be armed with modern anti-submarine torpedoes and depth bombs.

The Beriev Be-12s are currently stationed at the Kacha Air Base in Crimea. The Russian high command seems to believe that these modernized aircraft could be a game-changer in countering the Ukrainian naval threat in the Black Sea.


Russia Dusts Off Cold War Era Beriev Be 12 Planes to Face 21st Century Ukrainian Sea Drones 925 002

The Beriev Be-12 Chayka ("Seagull", NATO reporting name: Mail) is a Soviet turboprop-powered amphibious aircraft designed for anti-submarine and maritime patrol duties, and now naval drones (Picture source: Romanoff via airforce.ru.)