The AVIC AG600 amphibian has demonstrated the ability to rescue personnel lost at sea, adding to its role as a firefighter.

On 24 April the AG600 performed a low-level airdrop of an emergency raft and supplies to a swimmer, according to video report published the official Xinhua news agency.

AG600 recovers raft

Source: Xinhua

The AG600 deploys a raft during a demonstration. The type is pitched as a parapublic aircraft, but has clear military applications

The aircraft also demonstrated the ability to land and deploy an inflatable launch, which “rescued” a swimmer and returned him to the aircraft. The launch was then hauled back into the cargo hold.

The tests looked at issues such as taxiing characteristics on water and the coordination between crewmembers.

“This water rescue demonstration is an important part of the development of [the] AG600 to fully implement the spirit of [Chinese supreme leader] Xi Jinping’s important instructions on the aviation industry and AG600 series and the requirements for the construction of emergency rescue systems,” says the Xinhua report.

The demonstration took place in the calm waters of Zhanghe Reservoir in China’s central Hubei province. Zhanghe airport, which features two terrestrial and one water runway, has been a key testing site for the AG600 programme.

The tests highlighted the capabilities of the AG600 as a parapublic rescue aircraft. They also illustrated that the AG600, the world’s largest amphibian, could serve in the combat search and rescue role, collecting individual Chinese pilots and sailors. The capability could also be used to deploy special forces or resupply troops on South China Sea atolls that Beijing has illegally militarised.

In addition, the AG600’s launch and recovery capabilities could also be used to deploy sea mines or various types of unmanned surface or subsurface vehicles.

In March, Xinhua cited AVIC officials as saying that the AG600’s firefighting variant, the AG600M, could receive its type certificate by the end of the year.

The AG600 testing programme has involved four aircraft, which were produced by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft factory at Zhuhai airport, the site of China’s biennial Airshow China event.

The AG600 has a maximum take-off weight of 60t, nearly 50% greater than the next biggest amphibian, the Shinmaywa US-2.

In its annual report about the Chinese military, the US Department of Defense has highlighted China’s progress with the AG600 as an example of Beijing’s improving airlift capabilities.