China’s indigenously built AG600 amphibian has made its maiden flight. The four-turboprop aircraft took off on 24 December 2017 from Jinwan Airport in Zhuhai, near Macau, and flew for about an hour, according to Chinese state media.
First rolled out by manufacturer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) in July 2017 at a production facility in Zhuhai, the AG600 is slightly larger than the previous ‘flying boat’ built in China, the Harbin SH-5.
With a wing span of 38.8 m and a length of 37 m, it is also the third large aircraft designed and built in the country, following the Y-20 military transport aircraft, which entered service in 2016, and the 190-seat C-919 commercial passenger aircraft, which made its maiden flight in July 2017.
Powered by four WJ-6 turboprop engines (a derivative of the Ivchenko AI-20), the AG600 has a cruising speed of 500 km/h, an endurance of 12 hours, and a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes. The aircraft has the potential to carry 50 people or collect 12 tonnes of water in 20 seconds when configured for aerial firefighting, according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency.
The AG600 is likely to be used for both civilian and military applications. According to Xinhua, its role will include maritime rescue, aerial firefighting, and marine monitoring. In the latter role it may be used by the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) or the China Coastguard.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) may also use the aircraft for surveillance and logistics support, particularly in the South China Sea, where it could provide the capability to transport personnel and supplies quickly and at short notice.
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