China’s indigenously-developed AG600 large amphibious aircraft is expected to enter the market in 2025. AG600M aircraft, a model specialized for firefighting belonging to the AG600 large amphibious aircraft family, will aim to obtain the type certificate in 2024. The AVIC will endeavor to push forward the initial small-batch deliveries of AG600M firefighting aircraft in 2025. The Chinese planemaker will also facilitate another model of the AG600 aircraft family, especially for rescue missions, to obtain the type certificate in 2025. The year 2023 is important for aircraft development, as a series of major test missions are scheduled to take place this year. The AVIC will strive to make the AG600M aircraft capable of serving firefighting missions.
The AVIC AG600 Kunlong (Water Dragon) is a large amphibious aircraft designed by AVIC and assembled by CAIGA. 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 AVIC is committed to making decisive efforts in fulfilling major targets of the AG600 project, making contributions to sustain China’s emergency rescue and natural-disaster prevention systems. 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.
The tests will be carried out to ensure progress toward securing the airworthiness certification. These tests include flight tests in typical mission scenarios, iron-bird tests, lab validation tests, static tests, airworthiness validation flight tests, and quality tests for airborne devices, among others. A member of the AG600 aircraft family, the AG600M is specifically designed to combat forest fires. Its maximum take-off weight is 60 tonnes, with a capacity of carrying up to 12 tonnes of water. It can conduct low-altitude flying at low speed, enabling it to drop water accurately on fire sites. The AG600 aircraft family made constant progress in 2022, in terms of both aircraft development and market exploration. The AG600 aircraft family is developed as vital aeronautical equipment to strengthen China’s emergency rescue capabilities.
The AVIC AG600 is 39.6 m (129.9 ft) long and has a 38.8 m (127.3 ft) 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 86 t (190,000 lb) Beriev A-40. Previous seaplanes were heavier, as the 75 t (165,000 lb) Martin JRM Mars or 180 t (400,000 lb) Hughes H-4 Hercules. 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