China is readying its massive Jiaolong (Water Dragon) AG600 seaplane for its maiden flight. According to Chinese state media, the seaplane– purportedly the world’s largest amphibious aircraft—has passed the official technical quality assessment for its maiden flight.
The technical evaluation was held in Zhuhai City in China’s Guangdong Province.
“Experts agreed that the plane is ready for flight,” Xinhua news agency reports. The new account appears to contradict earlier reports that the maiden flight of the AG600 aircraft had already taken place in May of this year.
The seaplane’s developer, state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), announced in April following the successful completion of a taxiing test that the AG600’s maiden flight would take place in May followed by a flight on water in the second half of 2017. It is unclear what caused the delay.
The AG600s will be primarily used for marine search rescue and firefighting duties. However, the aircraft can also be used for military purposes including transporting supplies and military personnel to Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea (See: “Will this Plane Let China Control the South China Sea?”).
“Assuming, as claimed by the plane’s developers, that the AG600 only requires a water depth of 2.5 meters for landing and take-off, it would be an ideal aircraft to supply some of China’s artificial features in the Spratly Islands given that they are surrounded by shallow waters,” I noted previously.
It could also be used for long-range patrols, anti-submarine warfare tasks, and mine-laying missions. However, the Chinese military appears to be less impressed by the aircraft so far as one analyst has noted. As I reported previously:
The Boeing 737-sized AG600 aircraft is 37 meters long and has wingspan of 38.8 meters. Powered by four turboprop WJ-6 engines, the seaplane’s maximum take-off weight is 53.5 tons, its maximum cruising speed 500 kilometers per hour, and the maximum operational range without refueling 4,500 kilometers.
It purportedly can collect 12 tons of water in 20 seconds, and can transport a total of 370 tons of water in a single run.
China has ordered 17 AG600 aircraft and is considering purchasing an additional 53 in the coming years. “Malaysia and New Zealand have allegedly expressed interest in the new aircraft, next to a number of other Asian countries,” I wrote in March.
“China is reportedly also interested in building a tourist variant of the aircraft to shuffle Chinese tourists from the mainland back and forth as part of Beijing’s plan to transform some of the Chinese-held islands into tourist destinations.”