AG600 – The World’s Largest Seaplane

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China began widespread production of the AG600 – the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to enhance China’s emergency-rescue capabilities, including firefighting and maritime patrols and search and rescue across various terrains, as well as transporting cargo or passengers between Chinese-controlled islands. It is vital for China as it can reach any spot in the South China Sea within four hours from the Hainan Island, as explained by AVIC.

The project of the AG600 began back in 2014 and was created to meet the need for an emergency rescue aircraft for maritime searches. It first flew over land in 2017 and over the sea in 2020, and is currently undergoing testing, meaning it is nearing operational readiness.

According to Interesting Engineering, the AG600’s design is part of China’s goal to boost its aviation capabilities with domestically made aircraft, including the Y-20 transport plane and the C919 passenger jet. The AG600 is especially important for reaching Chinese bases in the South China Sea, and is part of the effort to modernize production by 2027.

AVIC chairman Qu Jingwen said in a statement for the South China Morning Post that the AG600 can take off and land at sea with waves up to 2 meters high and hover for two hours. Other Chinese media also noted the AG600’s role in enhancing navigational safety along the Maritime Silk Road (which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative).

The vessel’s development has faced many challenges, including technological setbacks and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing back the expected delivery date from 2022.

However, despite these challenges, the project progressed well and has 17 AG600s already on order, including orders from the State Oceanic Administration and the China Coast Guard. This seems to reflect this aircraft’s anticipated role in supporting China’s maritime interests.

This information was provided by Interesting Engineering.