The AVIC AG600 Kunlong is preparing in Hubei Province to conduct its first maritime test flight this year as planned, despite the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) epidemic. The AG600, China’s large amphibious airplane, is undergoing status adjustment and design optimization in Jingmen, Hubei, as all members of its development team at state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) have returned to work after the epidemic in the province began to ease. About the size of a Boeing 737, the AG600 can fight forest fires, undertake water rescues, monitor the maritime environment and carry out patrol missions
The AG600 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. Sea-based test flights are more challenging than those conducted over land, lakes or rivers because of factors like the complexity of the sea situation and the corrosive ocean environment. A sea-based test flight will be another milestone in the plane’s development, and the COVID-19 outbreak does not seem to have had any major impact on the project. The AG600 amphibious aircraft is expected to be delivered by 2022.
The AVIC AG600 Kunlong (Monstrous Sea Dragon) is a large amphibious aircraft designed by AVIC and assembled by CAIGA. Powered by four WJ-6 turboprops, it is one of the largest flying boats with a 53.5 t MTOW. The AG600 amphibious aircraft has a single body flying boat fuselage, cantilevered high wings, four WJ-6 turboprops and tricycle retractable landing gear. It can operate from 1,500 by 200 m stretches of water 2.5 m deep, and should be able to conduct Sea State 3 operations with 2 m waves. It was developed for aerial firefighting, collecting 12 t of water in 20 seconds and transporting up to 370 tof water on a single tank of fuel (31 rotations), and search and rescue, retrieving up to 50 people at sea.
Assembled by CAIGA, it is 36.9m long and has a 38.8m wingspan, its MTOW is 53.5 t from paved runways or 48.8 t from choppy sea. AVIC claims it is the largest amphibious aircraft. It is heavier than the 41 t MTOW Beriev Be-200 or the 47.7 t ShinMaywa US-2, but lighter than the prototype-only 86 t Beriev A-40. It could access remote atolls in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, claimed by several bordering nations, as the South China Sea is subjected to territorial disputes. It can fly in four hours from the southern city of Sanya to James Shoal, the southernmost edge of China’s territorial claims.