Russians Deploy Cold War Amphib To Battle Sea Drones


The Russian Air Force has dusted off a 60-year-old relic to meet a thoroughly modern threat. A Beriev BE-12 amphibious patrol aircraft has been spotted over the Black Sea and it’s apparently looking for Ukrainian boat drones. The uncrewed boats have had some success in carrying loads of explosives to damage Russian warships. The drones are apparently more than a match for the gangly Soviet-era flying boats, which lack the modern sensor systems needed to track the stealthy little floating bombs.

“Except for some very lucky sightings, the handful of Be-12s the Black Sea Fleet has available should not be counted on to have a major impact on the Russian attempts to stop the Ukrainian USV attacks,” Frederik Mertens, a strategic analyst with the Hague Center for Security Studies, told Newsweek. Mertens also said bringing back the Berievs “shows how far its naval air force is unprepared.” The Be-12 first flew in the 1950s and was originally designed as a surveillance and submarine hunting platform.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • Concerning your comment below: I’m not seeing the Stars and Bars anywhere in the photo. I even zoomed in until the pic was grainy. Can you point it to me?

    • Who says? The image of the “Stainless Banner” is offensive and triggering to quite a few people (perhaps especially to those of us whose families endured the “Civil War”) but you can’t twist a desire not to offend into revisionist history by censorship. These days that flag has been co-opted by latter-day ignorant bigots beholding to a different failed president.

      • Being offended is not a life skill.

        Leave it to a liberal to turn a discussion about a Russian airplane into a discussion of President Tump-phobia.

      • Unfortunately, the only failed president continues in office now.
        As for the airplane and any offense it may be responsible for, that bigotry is obviously (as usual) coming from the perpetually and inexplicably offended.
        The entire country “endured” the civil war. But some (mainly the left) refuse to let go of their own racism.
        You should try to move beyond your 9 yr old mentality. Grow up.

        • Could we please stop harping about politics and stick to the subject at hand? The plane is from the RUSSIAN air force and shows how poorly prepared their troops appear to be. Their ground troops are hauling out some tanks that date back to the 1950s because they have lost almost 1,000 modern tanks and armored vehicles so far.

          • I just wanted to know about the “stars and bars” in the picture. Just curious if it was lend/lease from the CAF.

  1. The Russian Air Force has maintained a small number of Be-12s for many years. Mostly because they failed to develop a modern surveillance / maritime warfare successor.

  2. Just a remark:

    These amazing old amphibians use a Russian formula of aluminum that is impervious to the effects of saltwater, a fact that was found out by a Western visitor to the Beriev HQ, who took a peek into the tail section of an old Be-12. Tails are a very sensitive part of a seaplane as salt water often amasses there, especially if it has a tailwheel landing gear (like the Be-12 does).

    To his surprise, the inside looked as if it was new on that old aircraft, thus the metal stood up to saltwater corrosion with ease, something no Western amphibian he had experience of did in those days.

  3. How about replace “to meet a thoroughly modern threat” with “in its attempt to seize Ukrainian territory.”

  4. Russian airplanes seem always to be trying to knock the Brits off the “ugliest airplane” pedestal.
    And often successfully.

  5. I agree with Don, looks a lot like a Martin including the large tailplane dihedral. I think its badazzness outweighs the ugliness and puts it into the cool category. I love Martins.

  6. It isn’t that hard to upgrade the sensors in this. And a low flying tuboprop is perfect for this.

  7. If it has been maintained as well as the rest of Russia’s equipment, it is probably a life sentence to any crew unfortunate enough to fly it. Agree though, it does look uncannily like a Martin PBM. Makes me believe they reversed engineered one like they did the B29 during WWII.

  8. That picture doesn’t do it justice. Some much better pics on the internets. That flag is just a white box with a black X in it.

  9. Just revisiting my previous comments. Can anyone point out the Stars and Bars or the Stainless Banner in the headline photo? Serious question. I just can’t find it.