South China Sea: Beijing to resume testing of new AG600 amphibious aircraft
China is about to resume testing of the first of four planned prototypes of its AG600 (Kunlong) amphibious aircraft capable of operating across all South China Sea area.
The first maritime test flight will take place in Hubei Province as planned, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AG600 is expected to be delivered by 2022, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The aircraft, designed for search & rescue and patrol missions, can reach any location in the South China Sea thanks to its endurance of 12 hours and the ability to take off and land on water.
The AG600 is larger and has a higher take-off weight than Japan’s US-2, the world’s most advanced amphibious aircraft.
The AG600, developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), is currently undergoing status adjustment and design optimization in Jingmen, Hube.
“The aircraft is ready to start test flight subject training,” Lu Yang, deputy head of the Zhuhai base test flight center under AVIC’s subsidiary China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co, told CCTV.
The project was suspended for about a month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of March 31, all defence producers in Hubei had resumed operation, with about 65 percent of workers returning to work, the Hubei Daily reported on Friday.
The amphibious aircraft conducted its land-based maiden flight in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, in December 2017 and its first water-based test flight over a reservoir in Jingmen in October 2018, reports said
Sea-based test flights are considered more challenging because of factors like the complexity of the sea situation and the corrosive ocean environment.
Defence Insights Analysis
The AG600 has a single body flying boat fuselage, cantilevered high wings, four WJ-6 turboprops and tricycle retractable landing gear. The aircraft can reportedly operate from 1,500 by 200 meters stretches of water 2.5 meters deep, and should be able to conduct Sea State 3 operations with 2 m (6.6 ft) waves.
– Speed: 560 km/h
– Range: 4,500 km
– Endurance: 12h
– Service ceiling: 6,000 m (20,000 ft)