Will China Use the World's Largest Amphibious Plane to Dominate the South China Sea?

Will China Use the World's Largest Amphibious Plane to Dominate the South China Sea?

The versatile jumbo seaplane can be used for more than rescue and firefighting missions as it can land at any point in the South China Sea.

A new series of China’s turboprop-propelled amphibious aircraft, the Jiaolong, meaning “flood dragon” in Mandarin, will ascend from water in its maiden offshore flight in the second half of the year, its developer the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) announced this weekend.

Coded AG600, the Jiaolong, the largest plane of its kind worldwide, features four turboprop engines riveted on to a 40-meter wingspan as well as a chubby fuselage capable of housing 50 passengers and three pilots. It has a range of 5,500 kilometers at a cruising speed of 480km/h.

The Jiaolong, roughly the size of a Boeing 737 airliner, took to the sky from Zhuhai Airport in Guangdong province at the end of last year and is now scheduled to wait in a reservoir in Jingmen in central China’s Hubei province for its maiden waterborne takeoff.

The AVIC said that of the 50,000 parts used in the Jiaolong, 98% had been sourced domestically.

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The state-owned aviation juggernaut also said that when deployed in firefighting operations, the water-bomber variant of the Jiaolong could suck up 12 tons of water within 20 seconds and subsequently drop water and fire retardant within a radius of 1,600km.

New Zealand and Malaysia have expressed interest in procuring the  versatile jumbo flying boat, according to the People’s Daily.

The paper’s sister publication, the Global Times , also revealed earlier that from the city of Sanya, on the southern tip of Hainan island, the seaplane could reach any location in the South China Sea within four hours.

Some analysts believe that other than maritime rescue and firefighting missions, the Jiaolong will soon begin strutting its stuff delivering personnel and materiel now that it can land in any part of the South China Sea, either on reclaimed airstrips or offshore.

Its impressive airlift capabilities and extra maneuverability can assist military deployment and Beijing’s still-frenzied island-building in that sea.

This article originally appeared on Asia Times.

Image: Reuters