The Be-200 is discharging water. Photo of UAC
Important place in the international market aviation technicians occupy amphibious aircraft. The main part of this niche falls on light equipment, but there is also a demand for heavy amphibians with a take-off weight of more than 30-35 tons. Currently, only three countries are ready to compete for contracts for such machines - Russia, Japan and China. Two of them are already offering their aircraft to potential customers, and the third is still testing.
The actual leader of the heavy amphibian market is the Russian Be-200 aircraft from TANTK im. G.M. Beriev. This machine took off for the first time in 1998 and since 2003 has been serially produced and is in operation. Several modifications have been developed with different equipment and functions. The Be-200 is capable of transporting people and cargo, participating in search and rescue operations and solving fire-fighting tasks.
The aircraft is 32 m long and has a wingspan of 32,7 m and has a maximum takeoff weight of 41 to 43 tons (from land and water). Payload - 5 tons or 43 passengers. The fuselage has 12 t tanks for extinguishing fires. It is possible to receive water in the planing mode.
First Russian Be-200 fleet at the parade on July 26, 2020 Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Since the beginning of the 200s, TANTK them. Beriev received several orders for the Be-12 from domestic and foreign organizations. The total volumes of such contracts are not too large, but they also compare favorably with other market participants. EMERCOM of Russia purchased 200 Be-2017ES; in 24, an order for XNUMX vehicles appeared. One amphibian was bought by the Ministry of Defense for use in naval aviation. A new contract for more equipment is expected.
The first foreign customer of the Be-200 was the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Azerbaijan - in May 2008 it received its only aircraft. In 2015, the negotiation process began on the sale of four Be-200ES to government agencies in Indonesia. In 2016, a Russian-Chinese contract for two aircraft appeared with an option for a second pair. In 2018, a contract for 4 aircraft and an option for 6 were signed for the American company Seaplane Global Air Services. At the same time, a Chilean order for 2 aircraft and an option for 5 appeared.
However, the fulfillment of existing orders is complicated by problems with the supply of engines. Ukrainian D-434TPs are now unavailable, and the use of foreign analogues is associated with certain difficulties. However, such problems are being resolved - recently the first new Be-200 went to serve in the Navy.
The cost of the Be-200 depends on various factors. So, six aircraft for the Russian Ministry of Defense under a 2013 contract (subsequently terminated by court) cost 8,4 billion rubles. - 1,4 billion per plane. The "American" contract for 10 cars at the negotiation stage was estimated at $ 3 billion, or $ 300 million each.
Seaplanes from ShinMaywa. The first two US-2 are in blue. Next to them is US-1A. Photo Wikimedia Commons
Thus, to date, less than 20 Be-200 aircraft have been built, but there are orders for several dozen - primarily from domestic agencies. Nevertheless, due to the small size of the market, even such sales make it possible to speak of world leadership.
In 2003, the Japanese company ShinMaywa Industries flew the US-2 seaplane for the first time, a deep modernization of the previous US-1, created in the sixties. The new multipurpose amphibian was intended for the naval aviation of the Self-Defense Forces and had to solve a wide range of tasks - to transport goods, participate in search and rescue operations, extinguish fires, etc. In 2007, the first US-2 was delivered to the Navy. A few years later, a permit was obtained to export such equipment.
The US-2 is a four-engine turboprop aircraft slightly larger than the Russian Be-200. The maximum take-off weight is 47-55 tons. Depending on the configuration, the aircraft can take on board up to 20 passengers or 10-12 tons of cargo. The fire-fighting modification receives tanks for 15 tons of water with the possibility of intake on planing.
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces have ordered 14 new aircraft. To date, only half have been commissioned, and construction continues. Already at the beginning of the last decade, the US-2 began to advance in the world market. India could become the first customer - it needed up to 18 amphibians, for which they could offer 1,65 billion US dollars (more than 90 million per aircraft). Later there was a request to organize licensed production in India. As far as we know, the negotiations are still going on - and so far they have not led to anything. For almost 10 years now, India has retained its status as a profitable, but still potential buyer.
Second production aircraft US-2. Photo by the Japanese Ministry of Defense
In 2015-16. Indonesia's interest in the US-2 was reported. Since news on this topic were not received. Apparently, the Indonesian leadership decided to purchase Russian amphibians, and the need for Japanese equipment disappeared. Thailand is another promising customer from the same region. Since 2016, negotiations have been under way, which have not yet had real results.
Due to such processes, Greece may become the first foreign customer of the US-2. After the fires of 2018, the Greek authorities were concerned with the problem of creating a fleet of firefighting aircraft, and showed interest in the Japanese amphibious. Negotiations are underway; the required number of aircraft was not named, but the price was indicated - $ 82 million per unit. It is unclear how soon the contract will appear and deliveries will begin.
Thus, there is only one firm contract for ShinMaywa US-2 aircraft, and from its own Self-Defense Forces. In the near future (for several years now) new orders are expected, now from foreign countries. Time will tell if the hopes of getting them are justified.
At the end of 2017, the Chinese Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) began flight tests of the promising AG600 Jiaolong (Water Dragon) seaplane. The materials on this project have been repeatedly demonstrated at various exhibitions and attracted the attention of potential customers. Again we are talking about a heavy multipurpose amphibian capable of operating in military and civil aviation.
Experienced aircraft AG600 at the exhibition, October 2016 Photo Wikimedia Commons
The first flight of AG600 from the airfield took place on December 24, 2017. In October 2018, the first takeoffs and landings were performed. On July 26, 2020, the Water Dragon took off for the first time from the surface of the sea and then landed. Such flights bring the final of tests closer, after which construction will begin with the delivery of finished equipment to customers.
The size of the four-engine turboprop AG600 surpasses the Russian and Japanese aircraft - the wingspan is 38,8 m, the length is 37 m. The maximum take-off weight reaches 53,5 tons. The cargo-passenger cabin can accommodate 50 people or a comparable cargo. The fire-fighting option carries 12 tons of water.
The AG600 seaplane is still in flight testing and is not ready for service. However, customers are already interested in him. AVIC announces firm contracts for 17 aircraft. At the same time, the customers and the cost of equipment are not named. Also, the timing of the completion of the tests and the beginning of the series remain unknown.
Samples for a narrow niche
A very interesting situation is observed in the field of heavy multipurpose amphibious aircraft. It is believed that such equipment is of interest to various customers - in this capacity, government and commercial organizations are considered that need firefighting, search and rescue and transport aircraft that can operate from the water. Given these market needs, some aircraft manufacturers are developing such projects.
AG600 offshore, July 26, 2020 Photo by Sina.com.cn
However, as practice shows, this market niche is not too large, and one should not expect large contracts in it. It is probably for this reason that the largest aircraft manufacturers ignore heavy seaplanes. There are only three samples of this class on the market, and so far only the Be-200 can boast of large orders and a fairly large series.
The Be-200, as expected, got into the fleet of two Russian ministries, and in addition, it managed to interest five foreign countries, one of which has already received its equipment. Meanwhile, the Japanese amphibious US-2 is supplied only by its own Self-Defense Forces, and the Chinese AG600 is not yet ready to be handed over to operators.
Thus, the Russian Be-200 has taken a leading position in a rather narrow segment of the multipurpose seaplane market, is produced with limited topics and is actively operated. Two other aircraft of the same class have not yet been able to become worthy competitors for it, although great hopes are pinned on them. There are no prerequisites for changing this situation yet. Competition for contracts is outlined - but has not yet begun.