China’s Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), the State-owned aviation conglomerate, announced on Saturday that it plans to commence sea-based flight tests of its new AG600 in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong province. Prototype of the jet has already made 172 preparatory flights that lasted 308 hours. There are two AG600 prototypes under testing – one for flight tests and another for ground-based static tests. There are two AG600 prototypes under testing – one is for flight tests and the other is for ground-based static tests. The company will soon start construction on four additional prototypes of the AG600 for testing.
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 (118,000 lb) MTOW. After five years of development, assembly started in August 2014, it was rolled out on 23 July 2016 and it made its first flight from Zhuhai Airport on 24 December 2017; it should be certified in 2021, with deliveries starting in 2022. The AG600 was previously known as the TA-600; it was designated the Dragon 600 before TA-600. The prototype was rolled out on 23 July 2016 at the Zhuhai AVIC factory.
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 (4,920 by 660 ft) stretches of water 2.5 m (8.2 ft) deep, and should be able to conduct Sea State 3 operations with 2 m (6.6 ft) waves. It was developed for aerial firefighting, collecting 12 t (26,000 lb) of water in 20 seconds and transporting up to 370 t (820,000 lb) of 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 (118,000 lb) from paved runways or 48.8 t (108,000 lb) from choppy sea.
AVIC claims it is the largest amphibious aircraft. It is heavier than the 41 t (90,000 lb) MTOW Beriev Be-200 or the 47.7 t (105,000 lb) ShinMaywa US-2, but lighter than the prototype-only 86 t (190,000 lb) Beriev A-40. Previous seaplanes were heavier, as the 75 t (165,000 lb) Martin JRM Mars or the prototypes 100 t (220,000 lb) Blohm & Voss BV 238, 156 t (345,000 lb) Saunders-Roe Princess or 180 t (400,000 lb) Hughes H-4 Hercules. 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.