May 23, 2006:
China is buying a submarine-hunter version of Russia's Be-200 jet powered amphibian aircraft. 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 model can carry twelve tons of water. The 43 ton aircraft can carry seven tons of cargo, giving it plenty of capacity for anti-sub sensors and weapons. Built to fly low and slow (it cruises at 500 kilometers an hour), this is ideal for anti-submarine warfare. Current endurance is about four hours per sortie. This will have to 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 apparently China likes the idea of being able to station the Be-200 anywhere along the coast (or up a river). During World War II, amphibious maritime reconnaissance aircraft often took advantage of this.