China unveiled the latest updates on the development of its large amphibious aircraft last week, which they claimed to be the largest in the world.

The second prototype of China’s large amphibious aircraft, the AG600M, recently completed its maiden flight test in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, CGTN News reported. It performed well during the 22-minute test maneuver flight, with all its systems remaining stable. A follow-up test to evaluate the water gathering and dropping performance of the second AG600M prototype is scheduled to take place soon.

second prototype
Second AG600M prototype (Image source: Twitter)

Expanding Its Combat Aircraft Inventory

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) designed Dragon 600 in the late 2000s as a multi-role aircraft, marking Beijing’s effort to independently develop a large aircraft family capable of carrying out firefighting, marine rescue, and other critical emergency rescue missions. It later renamed the amphibious aircraft TA-600 before its current name, the AG600 Kunlong (“Kun Dragon”). Finally, after five years of development, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) began assembly, which they finished and rolled out in July 2016, subsequently dubbing it the world’s largest amphibious aircraft. Immediately, the manufacturers piqued the interest of its stakeholders and received 17 orders from the Chinese government, including its Coast Guard. After that, however, the AVIC announced that it “does not expect to produce it in large numbers,” Flight Global reported.

The first AG600 prototype took its maiden flight on December 2017 at Zhuhai Jinwan Airport, with its certification received in 2021 and deliveries slated to begin in 2022. A year later, it completed its initial water takeoff and landing, and in July 2020, AG600 completed its first test flight from the ocean from Qingdao, which lasted more than a half-hour.

According to AVI, China is set to produce four working prototypes of the AG600M aircraft, “a full-configuration firefighting model belonging to the AG600 large amphibious aircraft family” dedicated to carrying out flight test missions. Consequently, on May 31, the first AG600M completed its test flight from the ground on May 31 and over the water on August 30.

First AG600M prototype landing on water. (Image source: Twitter)

With the second AG600M successful test completed last week, the remaining two prototypes are expected to accomplish their flight test this November and early in 2023, respectively, AVIC said.

AVIC added that it aims to deliver amphibious aircraft to serve firefighting missions by 2023 and enter the market in 2025. A Chinese New site reported in 2015 that its interested customers include New Zealand and Malaysia, but as time and circumstance change, it is yet to be confirmed if these two countries will pursue procurement.