- China conducted the maiden flight of its domestically developed AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, from an airport on the shores of the South China Sea. This is the latest step in China’s military modernisation programme.
- Powered by four turboprop engines, the AG600 can carry 50 people during maritime search-and-rescue missions, and can scoop up 12 metric tonnes of water within 20 seconds for fire-fighting trips, according to Xinhua news agency.
- The AG600, codenamed Kunlong, can reach the southernmost edge of China’s territorial claims in the area.
- The state media said the aircraft was the “protector spirit of the sea, islands and reefs”.
China has stepped up research on advanced military equipment as it adopts a more muscular approach to territorial disputes in places such as the disputed South China Sea, rattling nerves in the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.
Its potential use in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei all have overlapping claims.
- The AG600 is the third member of China’s “large aircraft family” following the large freighter Y-20 and large passenger aircraft C919, which made maiden flights in 2013 and 2017. The Y-20 entered service with China’s air force in July 2016.