The AG600 seaplane, developed indigenously by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), made its maiden flight over the sea in the coastal city of Qingdao. The aircraft could become an asset for the strategy of the Chinese military in the disputed maritime sectors of the South China Sea.
For the test flight that took place on July 26, 2020, the aircraft stayed airborne for about 31 minutes. It is the third important milestone for the program after its first takeoff on December 24, 2017, and another takeoff from a water reservoir in 2018.
The AVIC AG600 is powered by four turboprop engines and is reportedly capable to stay twelve hours in the air and to carry fifty people. It is significantly larger than any other operating aircraft designed to land on and take off from water, with a size similar to a narrow-body airliner such as the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320.
Along with the ARJ21, the C919 and the Y-20, the AG600 testifies of China’s attempt to free itself of western production. While it is advertised primarily as a waterbomber and a maritime rescue aircraft, its capacities could prove useful for China’s implantation in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. So far, seventeen aircraft were ordered.