Russia’s Amphibious Aircraft
The Bartini Beriev VVA-14, or to give it its full name, the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 Vertikal`no-Vzletayuschaya Amphibia (vertical take-off amphibious aircraft), was an unusual Russian aircraft developed during the 1970s.
The Bartini Beriev VVA-14 was developed to fulfil a Russian military request for an aircraft which could track and destroy United States Navy Polaris missile submarines – if the cold war was ever to have kicked off.
Development of the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 was scheduled over three stages. The first aircraft, the VVA-14M1, was to be a proof-of-concept aircraft, designed to test both the overall aerodynamics and additional technology which might be used. At first the VVA-14M1 was fitted with rigid pontoons on the ends of the central wing section, and later with these replaced by inflatable pontoons.
The VVA-14M2 was to be more advanced, with two engines providing thrust into the cavity under the wing to give lift, and later a series of lift engines were to be installed which would provide VTOL capability. Additionally, the VVA-14M2 was intended to be equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls.
The VVA-14M3 was the final aircraft. This would be a combat-ready, VTOL vehicle, fully equipped with weapons and with the Burevestnik computerised ASW (anti-submarine warfare) system, Bor-1 MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) and other operational equipment.
Unfortunately the three-stage development never materialised. Instead, after extensive research, including the development of the small prototype Be-1 wing in ground effect aircraft, the first VVA-14 prototype was completed in 1972. Its first flight was from a conventional runway on 4 September 1972.
In 1974 the aircraft was retro-fitted with inflatable pontoons, but these proved to be rather troublesome. The first amphibious test flights started in June of 1975.
Due to the problems with the inflatable pontoons, they were soon ditched in favor of the original rigid ones. At the same time the fuselage was lengthened and additional engines added. Unfortunately the bureau which was supposed to deliver the engines to enable VTOL flight never made good on their promise. This meant VTOL testing of the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 was never undertaken.
In 1974, after Bartini died, the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 was gradually wound down. In total the aircraft made 107 flights, and spent a combined 103 hours in the air.
In 1987, the only remaining Bartini Beriev VVA-14, serial number 19172, was sent to the Russian Federation Central Air Force Museum in Monino. The aircraft is still at the museum, where it sits in a rather sorry-looking semi-dismantled state. Sad considering what a remarkable aircraft it could have been.