What makes it special, and why does the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation use it in the war against Ukraine

In its regular intelligence report, the Ministry of Defense of Great Britain stated in particular that the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation was forced to use its naval aviation more actively, including to counter possible attacks by Ukrainian kamikaze boats. At the same time, Be-12 amphibious aircraft were particularly mentioned, which can be called a real rarity (because they were put into service in 1968).

Against this background, questions naturally arise as to what kind of aircraft it is and its characteristics, how old it can be called precisely in terms of operation, and how many Be-12s the Russian military might currently have. And most importantly, why did the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation “remember” about this type of aircraft only now? And here the answer can be the following.

Be-12 plane
Be-12 aircraft of the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, illustrative photo of pre-war times 

  • Fuselage length: 30 meters
  • Wingspan: 30 meters
  • Maximum take-off weight: 36 tons
    • Combat load: 1500 kg to 3000 kg
  • Patrol speed: Up to 320 km/h
  • Maximum speed: Up to 550 km/h
  • Maximum flight range: Up to 4000 km
    • Flight radius during extended patrol (2-3 hours or more): 600-650 km

But especially in the case of the Be-12, it is necessary to make a reservation about the “passport” flight characteristics because this aircraft was decommissioned in 1992 precisely because of the technical condition. But formally, the Russian military can use it until the “full development of the resource.” It is precisely because of this that Be-12 aircraft are currently preserved only in the formation of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation’s naval aviation, which has its nuances.

Be-12 plane
Be-12 aircraft 

For example, the concept of “amphibious” in relation to the Be-12 is quite conditional since precisely because of the nuances of the technical condition, Russian pilots do not risk taking off from the water on these planes; they take off only from “land” airfields.

A separate interesting nuance is how many aircraft of this type could actually remain in the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. For example, The Military Balance 2023 handbook talks about 6 aircraft of this type, and even in the PS version (that is, search and rescue, not anti-submarine).

Publicly available satellite images for July 2022 indicated that there were 7-8 Be-12 type aircraft and + two “boards” of this type in a disassembled state at the “Kacha” airfield, but at the same time, only 4 were actually in operation -5 aircraft of this type, which are part of the 318th separate mixed aviation regiment of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation.

Be-12 planeRussian Be-12 aircraft at the Kacha Airfield in temporarily occupied Crimea, July 20, 2022, image courtesy of The Drive courtesy of Planet Labs as copyright holder 

However, it should be emphasized that for the first time in the war against Ukraine, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation began to use Be-12 aircraft back in August 2022, against the background of the first strikes on military facilities in the temporarily occupied Crimea, to search for alleged “saboteurs” and monitor shipping in our ports of “Great Odesa.”

If the Russians really only have Be-12 modifications of the PS, this may explain why the Russians are trying to “visually” find our kamikaze boats on such planes. Obviously, the military enemy is convinced that the Be-12 is still fully capable of performing its functions before the “full development of the resource.”