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Air Transportation: Jet Seaplanes For Russia
June 20, 2013: The Russian Defense Ministry has bought six Be-200 jet powered amphibian aircraft, for about $40 million each. The Be-200 was developed in the 1990s, using a combination of Russian and Western technology. It first flew in 1998, and over a dozen are on order configured as fire-fighting aircraft. This was the main reason it was designed in the first place. Five of these are already in service. This model can carry twelve tons of water (which it could scoop from a river in 12 seconds). The 43 ton aircraft can carry seven tons of cargo or 72 passengers. The aircraft was offered in an anti-submarine configuration but there were no takers. Built to fly low and slow (it cruises at 500 kilometers an hour), the Be-200 was ideal for anti-submarine warfare. It is unclear what the Russian military intends to do with it. Because most of Russia lacks roads and airfields, but has plenty of rivers and lakes, the Be-200 would greatly increase rapid access to many of these areas, especially those beyond the range of helicopters.
Current endurance is about four hours per sortie. This can be increased by using some of the cargo capacity for additional fuel, to get endurance up to eight hours or more. An amphibious aircraft is more expensive to build and maintain, but the Be-200 can be stationed anywhere along the coast (or up a river). During World War II amphibious maritime reconnaissance aircraft often took advantage of this.