China is building the world’s largest seaplane, the Jiaolong (Water Dragon) AG600. Capable of landing and taking off on water (and land), the Chinese-built aircraft could make it easier for Beijing to press its claims in the South China Sea, according to experts quoted in a Defense News article.
“Amphibious planes like the AG600 would be perfect for resupplying the new artificial islands that the Chinese are building in the SCS [South China Sea]. At the same time, these islands would be excellent bases of operations for the AG600 to engage in maritime patrols of claimed territories,” notes Richard Bitzinger, coordinator of the Military Transformations Program at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
With a maximum take-off weight of 60 tons, the Jiaolong AG600 will become China’s largest amphibious airplane when it enters Chinese services in either 2016 or 2017. According to information obtained by Defense News, the aircraft is powered by four turboprop WJ-6 engines and has a range of 5,500 kilometers. The alleged top speed of the aircraft is 348 mph (555 km/h).
The AG600 is currently being built by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. (CAIGA), which is also developing two other seaplanes. Defense News reports that on March 17, the company announced that it had completed the front fuselage assembly for the prototype. The civilian version of the plane can be used for a wide range of tasks including emergency rescue operations, forest firefighting, transport missions, and maritime surveillance.