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Analysis: Experts assess prospects of Russian antisubmarine aircraft - part 1

The Russian Navy reportedly plans to develop passenger Tu-204 airplane into an Antisubmarine Airborne Complex (PlAK). online publication analyzed the prospects of the project.

Experts assess prospects of Russian antisubmarine aircraft part1 Beriev A-40 amphibious aircraft (Picture source: Yevgeny Pashnin)

Media reports said the Navy drafted technical requirements to the new antisubmarine aircraft developed from Tu-204 or Tu-214 passenger liners. However, at present there are requirements to the antisubmarine aircraft based on  Albatros A-42 amphibious plane. The Navy commander-in-chief only plans to invite the Tupolev enterprise to acquaint it with proposals to develop Tu-204 into an antisubmarine aircraft.

The change of plans was likely triggered by the operation of Tu-214R reconnaissance aircraft in Syria. It exposed the whole situation to a depth of over 400 km and detected submarines without any sonar buoys. In other words, the aircraft performed properly.

The idea to develop Tu-214 into a patrol aircraft originated in mid-1990s. A Tu-214 patrol aircraft won a tender and defeated A-42 of the Beriev design. The government issued resolution #61-10 of February 19, 1996 to create a patrol aircraft on the basis of Tu-214. The Tupolev enterprise produced a wooden mockup of Tu-214P (P stands for Patrol).

The aircraft plant in Kazan was ready to produce Tu-214P prototype and begin batch production. There was a trend to create dual-purpose aircraft for civilian and military operations. The trend remains today.

After Tu-214P won the tender, the government resolution was breached and the naval aviation launched another tender for a patrol aircraft. Albatros A-42 won it. The financing of Tu-214 antisubmarine aircraft was actually stopped.

Thus, A-42 amphibian lost one tender to Tu-214, but won another one. The Navy invested a lot into Albatros, but the antisubmarine aircraft did not appear. Even trials did not begin. Tu-214 based on stationary airfields costs much less, some experts said. An amphibian is always more costly than an ordinary aircraft. The infrastructure for A-42 is very expensive.

However, a detailed analysis of A-42 and Tu-214 concepts shows the price gap is not too big.

A-42 has several advantages. The navymen are inspired by its ability to land on water. However the advantage disappears as the weather often does not allow landing in seas and oceans where the Russian fleet operates. Rough seas do not allow A-42 to land.

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