A new Chinese-built seaplane could help seal Beijing’s control over its claims in the South China Sea (SCS), say military specialists on China.
The Jiaolong (Water Dragon) AG600, under construction by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), will be China’s largest operational seaplane. CAIGA did not respond to inquiries after the company’s announcement on March 17 that it had completed the front fuselage assembly for the prototype.
According to brochures obtained at the 2014 Airshow China in Zhuhai, the aircraft is powered by four turboprop WJ-6 engines and has a range of 5,500 kilometers, which would provide substantial movement within the SCS. In the Spratly Islands, China is currently constructing artificial islands on Hughes Reef, Johnson South Reef and Gaven Reef.
Despite the lack of direct mainland access to Beijing’s strategic claims in the SCS, the aircraft are seen as a boon to solidifying control of the area by China’s military and maritime enforcement agencies for island hopping within the crowded clusters of the 750 reefs, islets, atolls and islands in the Spratly Islands archipelago.
“Amphibious planes like the AG600 would be perfect for resupplying the new artificial islands that the Chinese are building in the SCS,” said Richard Bitzinger, coordinator of the Military Transformations Program at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“At the same time, these islands would be excellent bases of operations for the AG600 to engage in maritime patrols of claimed territories.”
Read More:Seaplane Could Advance Chinese SCS Claims.