China’s home-grown AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft in production, took to the skies its maiden flight.
The plane, code named ‘Kunlong’ according to state news agency Xinhua, took off from the southern city of Zhuhai and landed after roughly an hour-long flight.
With a wingspan of 38.8 metres (127 feet) and powered by four turboprop engines, the aircraft is capable of carrying 50 people and can stay airborne for 12 hours. The Giant plane is almost the size of a Boeing 737.
The amphibious aircraft has military applications but will be used for fire fighting and marine rescue, with at least 17 orders placed so far with state-owned manufacturer Aviation Industry Corp of China, state media reported.
Its 4,500-km operational range and ability to land and take off from water makes it well-suited for deployment over China’s artificial islands.
The AG600 can carry 50 during maritime search-and-rescue missions, and can scoop up 12 metric tons of water within 20 seconds for fire fighting trips.
The design is being heralded as a landmark for Chinese aviation engineering with 98 percent of all the plane’s components being made inside the country.
The launch of the new amphibious aircraft further strengthens China’s rapidly modernizing military.
Earlier this year, it launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A.
This complemented the Liaoning, a second-hand Soviet carrier commissioned in 2012 after extensive refits.
China’s military expenditure in 2016 was an estimated $215 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, putting it in first place in Asia, well ahead of India ($56 billion), Japan ($46 billion) and South Korea ($37 billion).