The large AG600 amphibious aircraft, developed in China, successfully conducted its first test flight at sea. The test demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to operate in challenging maritime conditions and perform different missions.
Analysts consulted by the Global Times newspaper revealed that the aircraft would assist in search and rescue missions at sea. They also indicated that their presence in the South China Sea would contribute to China’s ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and would contribute to the practice of China’s civil administration in the region.
The AG600 plane took off from the waters near the coastal city of Qingdao, in eastern Shandong province. It was in the air for about 31 minutes and completed a series of test manoeuvres in the sky, before landing at an airport in Rizhao, in the same province.
The event marked the success of the AG600’s first test flight at sea, said the developer of the aircraft Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC).
The AG600 conducted its first test ground flight in Zhuhai, southern Guangdong Province in December 2017, and its first test water flight over a reservoir in Jingmen, central China Hubei Province, in October 2018.
The aircraft’s test flight at sea demonstrated its performance in sea waves and in corrosive environments of high salinity and humidity, AVIC added.
They explained that seawater is different from freshwater in terms of salinity, density and waves, and the pilot also faced more complicated environments, which means that test flights at sea are much more difficult compared to previous test flights in the water.
In addition, the aircraft was tested for missions, including cargo transportation offshore and emergency rescue at sea, in the future, the company said.
A test flight at sea is more challenging because uncontrollable factors come into play, including waves and corrosion that could cause a malfunction of the aircraft systems, They explained to Wang Ya’nan Global Times, an expert in the industry Chinese aviation and editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine.
The successful test flight at sea indicated that the AG600 has already basically achieved its designed objective. Its next steps will likely involve more test flights, as well as tests that challenge the plane’s ability to resist seawater corrosion for long periods, carry heavy cargo and put out the fire, Wang added.
Future missions of the amphibian plane
The AG600 is the first civilian special mission aircraft developed in China, whose primary objective is to meet the country’s needs for forest fire fighting and marine rescue operations, according to AVIC.
On a firefighting mission, the aircraft can hold up to 12 tons of water, either drawn directly from water surfaces or manually filled at an airport. You can use the water to spray and cover an area of more than 4,000 square meters.
In search and rescue missions, you can fly low over the water surface, land on the water when necessary, and save up to 50 people in dangerous environments.
On the other hand, the AG600 is also suitable for military operations, such as patrols and anti-submarine missions, according to Chinese military expert Yin Zhuo.
When taking off from the south of the country, the AG600 can reach anywhere in the South China Sea thanks to its resistance of up to 12 hours, its maximum speed of 500 kilometres per hour and its ability to take off and land in the water.
Due to their maritime claims, lately the tension in the South China Sea between China and the US on the one hand, and with other countries that consider them illegal on the other hand, increased.