The AVIC AG600 amphibian completed a number of key tests in 2023, and is poised to receive its type certificate in 2024.
Following its receipt of a type certificate, the world’s largest amphibian will enter service in 2025, serving in the firefighting and search and rescue missions, according to a report by China state news agency Xinhua, quoting AVIC.
The report adds that four AG600s were involved in testing during 2023. Firefighting capabilities appeared to be a key focus during the year. The aircraft also completed a five-month fatigue testing campaign, with the airframe undergoing 18,000 pressurisation cycles.
The AG600 is the world’s largest amphibian, with a maximum take-off weight of 60t, nearly 50% greater than the next biggest, the Shinmaywa US-2. The AG600 has a maximum water dropping capacity of 12t.
AVIC has made much of the AG600’s parapublic capabilities, but the aircraft, powered by four Dongan WJ-6 turboprops, has clear military applications. These could include search and rescue for military personnel, as well as providing rapid resupply for the network of military bases Beijing has illegally built on disputed islands and shoals in the South China Sea.
In October 2023, the Pentagon’s annual report about military developments in China mentioned the AG600, observing that it and the Xian Y-20 strategic transport are part of an effort to significantly update the country’s airlift capabilities.