The updated version of the AVIC AG600 amphibian has successfully completed a series of water-drop tests, and also landed customer commitments for six examples.
During a 27 September trial, the AG600M (B-0DCC) took off from the runway of China’s Zhanghe airport in Hubei province carrying 12t of water, says AVIC.
After dropping its load on a simulated target in 15s, the aircraft scooped another 12t of water from Zhanghe reservoir, which it also deployed. The aircraft subsequently landed on the reservoir.
According to AVIC, the aircraft performed well with the drop accuracy and water intake meeting “design goals”.
The aircraft had conducted its first water-to-water sortie from the reservoir on 29 August, three months after its maiden sortie on 31 May.
A video of the activity indicates that four additional AG600Ms are in production.
AVIC also announced what appear to be the AG600’s first customer commitments, with AVIC General Huanan Aircraft Industry signing agreements for four examples and Everbright Financial Leasing signing letters of intent for two.
The AG600 is built by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft at Zhuhai airport, which is beside the South China Sea near Macau.
Zhanghe reservoir witnessed the maiden flight of the first AG600 (B-002A) in October 2018. AVIC uses the location for AG600 testing work owing to the relatively calmer waters compared with the sea.
B-0DCC features a number of changes from its predecessor, such as a more bulbous upper fuselage and a re-shaped nose. Other alterations include a larger under-fuselage skirt – which is consistent with the firefighting mission. It also has a 60t maximum take-off weight, higher than 53.3t for the original prototype.
As development of the firefighting-roled AG600M progresses, AVIC adds that other variants of the AG600 will developed.
In 2019, the US Defense Intelligence Agency suggested that the AG600 could also serve as a military asset.