The Impressive Chinese AG600 Maritime Patrol Flying Boat Makes First Flight in Zhuhai, China.

Dec 26 2017 - 15 Comments
By Tom Demerly

It’s the second largest amphibious aircraft in the world after the Beriev A-40. Mission Includes Maritime Security, Search and Rescue and Firefighting.

The impressive AVIC AG600 long-range maritime security and patrol amphibious aircraf made its first flight from land at the Jinwan Civil Aviation Airport in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China on Dec. 24, 2017. The large, four-engine turboprop aircraft, with a wingspan of 127-feet, flew for about one-hour according to Chinese state media. It is comparable in size the jet-powered twin-engine P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft but adds the capability to land and take off in the open ocean, even in relatively heavy seas. The take-off was broadcast live on television in China. The aircraft returned to significant fanfare including planned celebrations to publicize the event.

The AG600 continues the long history of flying boats in the Asian region. (All photos: Xinhuanet)

Large, long range “flying boat” amphibious aircraft have a history of utility and success in the region, with Japan often leading the way with flying boat designs since WWII and continuing into modern aviation with their recent large, four-engine ShinMaywa US-2 and previous flying boat, the Shin Meiwa US-1A maritime patrol aircraft. Because of the region’s dependence on maritime trade and territorial disputes over small islands, the role of these aircraft has become particularly relevant. In civilian culture the aircraft and their crews take on mystic relevance because of their guardianship of sailors at sea and their ability to swoop down from the sky and save doomed men adrift in the open ocean.

China’s, Xinhua news agency broadcast that the aircraft was the “protector spirit of the sea, islands and reefs,” attesting to its security role along with an increasing environmental surveillance role to protect endangered reef areas from poaching of sharks and pollution.

The aircraft can also fill large onboard water tanks when floating on surface for fighting fires both onboard ships and on land. The aircraft can fill its onboard firefighting tanks with 12-tons of water in only 20 seconds.

The AG600’s chief designer, state aviation engineer Huang Lingcai, was quoted in the official China Daily earlier this month as saying the aircraft can make round trips without refueling from the southern island province of Hainan to James Shoal, a disputed area claimed by China but located close to Sarawak in Malaysia.

There are currently 17 outstanding orders for the AG600 from Chinese government departments and Chinese companies. Long un-refueled operating range and endurance is a key selling feature of the AG600, with a maximum flight range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles) and a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tons. It can carry a large passenger and crew compliment of up to 50 personnel.

  • leroy

    If there were any questions about Chinese intentions in the South China Sea, this plane can put them to rest. I doubt we’ll see it landing in the Persian Gulf, but given the expansion of PLA activities around the world, anything is possible. That said, I’ll give them, Chinese engineers, their due. They’ve done a good job from the looks of the design.

    I watched a different, longer video very closely. No doubt – the Chinese have made a nice plane. I was especially impressed with its short takeoff roll (see time indexed vid below), even if it was unloaded. If it can be adapted for fighting forest fires, I’d not be against purchase by U.S. States like California. To fight forest fires. It looks to be able to carry a lot of weight (in water). Indeed, it looks to be a solid design that probably will be adapted to many uses both military and civilian.

    https://youtu.be/-1jBu3SDB_c?t=1053

  • sglover

    “If there were any questions about Chinese intentions in the South China Sea, this plane can put them to rest”

    If you want to start hysterics over a…flying boat — maybe you should lower your jingoism thermostat by a few hundred notches. I imagine that, since a good part of Chinese trade goes on vessels that travel the **China** Sea, they probably want to….. patrol it. Like pretty much every maritime state since, oh, the age of sail.

    • FelixA9

      You think because part of the name is “China” that means they own it? Well then, I guess “South *America*” belongs to the United States of *America* because, you know, the name.

    • FelixA9

      You think because part of the name is “China” that means they own it? Well then, I guess “South *America*” belongs to the United States of *America* because, you know, the name.

      • sglover

        “You think because part of the name is “China” that means they own it?”

        Ah, no. But just so the remark doesn’t go completely over your head: You do realize that it’s called “China” Sea because it’s kinda close to…. China, right? As in, maybe the Chinese state has as legitimate an interest in monitoring it as India does the Indian Ocean.

        Maybe you’re anxious about the new **flying boat gap**?

        • FelixA9

          This no doubt escaped your attention, China apologist that you are, but it’s also near a plethora of other nations.

          • sglover

            OK, I get it: China’s built a kind of updated PBM Mariner, and I’m supposed to worry about it and get ready to pony up another few dozen billion to Lockheed/Raytheon/BAE/etc so we can keep the China Sea American. And an “apologist” is anybody who mentions that states tend to monitor seas in their vicinity. Sure, absolutely, it all makes perfect sense.

  • FelixA9

    Second largest? Uhm, what?

    • leroy

      I wasn’t aware of this. I knew about Japan’s US1/2, but not this. Given all the wildfires in the West, you’d think we’d build/buy something like these type aircraft. Lots of lakes in CA where they could fill ‘er up! Come in handy I’ll bet.

    • leroy

      I wasn’t aware of this. I knew about Japan’s US1/2, but not this. Given all the wildfires in the West, you’d think we’d build/buy something like these type aircraft. Lots of lakes in CA where they could fill ‘er up! Come in handy I’ll bet.

      • FelixA9

        And this is old. The US built several types of large sea planes back in the day. (The largest of course being Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”.) This Chinese aircraft is similar to, albeit smaller than, the Convair Tradewind, built over half a century ago.

        Then there was this one:

        Keep in mind, these are actual aircraft, not sea-skimming WIGs.

  • thelaine

    This is a great update to 1930’s technology such as the Consolidated PBY Catalina. Good on ya, China.

  • theworkingclass

    The Convair R3Y, Martin Mars and Martin P6M were flying boats. They could not land on a solid runway, only water. The Chinese AG600 has landing gear to enable it to take off and land on land as well as water, so it is an amphibian, not a flying boat. This distinction is important to aircraft designers as well as pilots. It is a pity the Russians only built one amphibian Beriev A-40/Be-42. It looks like a sweet plane, too.

    • Holztransistor

      There also is the Be-200. A modern amphibian plane.

      • theworkingclass

        The AG600 is bigger. It’s longer, has a wider wingspan and is higher. It has a higher MTOW and more total thrust. I’d love to be corrected, but I don’t know of a bigger amphibian than the AG600.