Moscow is turning to naval aviation to help restore its diminished position against Ukraine in the Black Sea, including the use of 1950s-era amphibians.
One focus area is maritime patrols conducted by Beriev Be-12 amphibious aircraft, says the UK government’s Defence Intelligence body in a regular update on the war in Ukraine.
“[Russian] Naval Aviation is emphasising maritime air patrol operations, highly likely with a primary mission of the early identification of uncrewed surface vessels [USVs],” says the agency.
“A key asset in these operations is the Be-12 ‘Mail’ amphibious aircraft, designed in the 1950s, flying out of bases in occupied Crimea.”
Ukraine has proven adept at building cheap, explosive-packed USVs. The vessels have been used to attack Russian warships, oil tankers, and naval bases. The improvised vessels have complicated Russia’s maritime position.
Cirium fleets data suggests that Russia has seven in-service Be-12s, with three in storage. The average age of the fleet is 51.1 years.
Originally designed for the anti-submarine warfare mission, the Be-12 is powered by a pair of Ivchenko Progress AI-20P turboprops and has crew of four. During the Cold War, its sensor suite included a search radar in the nose, as well as magnetic anomaly detector to hunt for submerged submarines.
In addition, UK intelligence says that Sukhoi Su-24 and Su-27/30-family jets operated by Russia’s navy continue to perform maritime strikes, including a recent attack against Ukraine’s Snake Island.
“With more fleet activities likely relocating to Novorossiysk in the face of threats to Sevastopol, Russia is attempting to use naval air power to project force over the northwestern Black Sea,” it adds.