China claims to have successfully tested a new sea plane, purportedly the largest in the world, and while its primary purposes are firefighting and water rescue, this new aircraft could be used to advance the country’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.
The AG600 Kunlong, a domestically-built Chinese aircraft roughly the size of a Boeing 737, recently completed several on-water tests on a lake in central China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing China Aviation News, reported Sunday. It can reportedly even land in choppy seas with its hull-like fuselage.
During the testing in Hubei province, the aircraft was put through a series of water maneuvering and low-speed flight tests, according to the Associated Press.
The aircraft made its maiden flight in December last year. Military experts reportedly believe that the latest tests indicate the plane could soon be ready for service.
The AG600 Kunlong, powered by four turboprop engines, has a significant carrying capacity. In a rescue situation, it could carry up to 50 people, and were it to be deployed for firefighting purposes, it could carry around a dozen metric tons of water.
Experts suggest that it could be used to move troops and equipment into the disputed South China Sea, where China has built militarized outposts armed with various point defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. China even landed a heavy bomber at an outpost earlier this year.