The AG600 Kunlong giant amphibious aircraft in maiden China flight

AG600 from an air show in 2016

The AG600 took off from an airport in the city of Zhuhai on Sunday.

"Its successful maiden flight makes China among the world's few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft", said chief designer, Huang Lingcai.

China on Monday successfully conducted flight of indigenously developed aircraft AG600, believed to be world's largest amphibious aircraft. Among other features, it is created to be the largest of its kind in the world, can carry 50 people on rescue missions and carry 370 tons of water in each tank.

It has firefighting and marine rescue duties but also military applications, which could be put to use in the disputed South China Sea region.

The AG600 is one of the three large-size aircraft borne from the nation's ambitious effort to become a top-tier player in the global aviation sector, joining the Y-20 strategic transport plane, delivery of which to the Chinese Air Force began in July 2016, and the C919 narrow-body jetliner that is being flight tested. "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", said James Char, a military analyst at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

It took around eight years for State-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) [SASADY.UL] to develop the aircraft. These specifications have made it the world's largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan's ShinMaywa US-2 and Russia's Beriev Be-200. Beijing's buildup in the South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion in annual trade passes, is hotly contested by other nations.

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