China’s domestically developed amphibious aircraft completed a takeoff from water for the first time on Saturday in Hubei Province.
The Chinese government says that the AG600, one of the largest planes of its kind, is developed mainly for search and rescue operations at sea. But some experts say it is possible that China aims to use the AG600 for military activities in the South China Sea, where the country has been building military strongholds.
The length of the AG600 aircraft is about 37 meters – similar to that of passenger airplanes. The aircraft’s cruising range is believed to be 4,500 kilometers and each of the planes is capable of transporting about 54 tons of supplies.
Late last year, the AG600 aircraft conducted its maiden flight, taking off from the ground.
Saturday’s test flight was broadcast live by the country’s state media. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message, saying, “I want people involved to work hard to realize the goal of making our country a nation with strong aviation capabilities.”
Chinese media reported that the AG600 plane can be used as an early-warning aircraft over the South China Sea if necessary modifications are made.
Some experts have also pointed out that the AG600 aircraft could transport supplies to remote islands where conventional large planes cannot land or take off.