China starts production of AVIC AG600 large amphibious aircraft  

AVIC ag600

Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has started low-rate serial production of its AG600 amphibious airplane. The front section of the first aircraft is set to arrive at the assembly plant on June 30, 2024, Chinese media has reported. 

The AG600 is a large seaplane designed for a range of amphibious missions, such as aerial firefighting and maritime search and rescue. 

The start of the AG600’s production follows a ten-year development phase.  

The first test flights of the AG600 started over land in 2017, followed by testing over water from 2020. Aerial firefighting tests with the AG600M version of the aircraft were successfully completed in July 2023 and night flight tests in May 2024. 

Production will be carried out in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, by Huanan Aircraft Industry Co., Ltd., ahead of type certification, which is expected to arrive before the end of 2024. 

China’s seaplane program is taking shape in the context of heightened tensions with its neighbors. This reaches beyond issues relating to Taiwan to take in the sovereignty of multiple islands and atolls in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific.  

It is thought that any hypothetical conflict between China and the US and its allies in the region would involve a strong aeronaval component.  

This has prompted the US to renew its interest in amphibious aircraft, with the launch of new research and development programs in this field. These include DARPA’s heavy lift seaplane program and US military interest in the capabilities of Regent’s Seaglider, a wing-on-ground vehicle capable of skimming the surface of the ocean at high speeds. 

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