On Sunday, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft AG600, codenamed “Kunlong,” completed its first flight in China’s Guangdong province. This made-in-China aircraft took off from the Jinwan Airport in Zhuhai city and spent nearly one hour in the air before landing again at the airport’s runway.
Hundreds of people were present at the airport on Sunday to greet the aircraft.
According to Xinhua News, AG600 was designed to be used for maritime rescue operations, monitoring of the Chinese coastline, and fighting wildfires in the country. Its codename “Kunlong” is derived from two Chinese words—”kun” and “long” meaning a huge legendary fish and a dragon, respectively.
“The maiden flight makes China among the few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft,” said Huang Lingcai, chief designer of AG600.
AG600 is the latest member of China’s “big aircraft family,” which already includes the large passenger plane C919 and freighter Y-20. Y-20 made its first flight in 2013, and C919 became operational in 2017.
AG600 was made by the Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), which took nearly eight years to design and develop this plane. AG600 is nearly as big as a Boeing Co 737 and features four turboprop engines that give it an operational range of 4,500 km, giving it the ability to stay in the air for about 12 hours.
AG600 can carry 50 people during search-and-rescue operations. It can also scoop up about 12 metric tons of water in just 20 seconds during fire-fighting missions. AG600’s wingspan is 38.8 meters (127 ft). The maker of this plane has already received 17 orders from various government agencies in China.
The unveiling of AG600 is also a significant step towards the modernization of the Chinese military, according to The Guardian. Earlier this year, China launched Type 001A, its first home-built aircraft carrier. AG600 can be used in military missions, especially in the disputed South China Sea region, according to security experts. Its large operational range and the ability to float in water make it suitable for deployment over China’s artificial islands. AG600 takes just four hours to fly from the city of Sanya to the James Shoal—the southernmost area of China’s territorial claims. This area is located nearly 1,800 km from the mainland and is currently under the control of Malaysia. China has a dispute with Malaysia and Taiwan over this area. The James Shoal lies just 80 km from Malaysia’s coastline.