In 1986, the Chinese Navy began operations of the Harbin SH-5, a large amphibious aircraft utilized primarily for maritime patrol and over-water Search and Rescue (SAR). The design emerged from work handled in the 1970s but only seven examples were taken on through production spanning from 1984 to 1985. The local Chinese concern of AVIC ("Aviation Industry Corporation of China") is now planning a successor based on the SH-5 as the "TA-600". This development will retain the former's amphibious capabilities and operate in largely the same roles as its Cold War-era predecessor. Beyond these military-minded roles, it is also envisioned that the TA-600 will be capable of firefighting over the vast, hard-to-reach Chinese wilderness - which will make range and water-hauling key qualities in the design. The TA-600 is expected to begin final assembly in 2015 for delivery during 2016 - this is a delay from the original 2014 delivery window.
The TA-600 has its roots in a 2009 initiative and, at this time, the aircraft retained many of the features seen in the original SH-5. Over the years, its silhouette has been slowly revised by way of modified float supports, a more blended, better-contoured cockpit roofline, and a "T-style" tail unit (as opposed to the split vertical tail fins of the SH-5). On the whole, the aircraft has continued use of flying boat basics - high, shoulder-mounted wings, two engines installed at each wing, and a boat-like hull for water landings. Its standard operating crew will be two pilots, a loadmaster, and any required mission specialists (sortie dependent). The hold will also support seating for up to 50 passengers. The resulting aircraft has proven heavier than previously planned at approximately 107,000lb, up from the original 98,000lb. The added weight has altered the expected operational range, reduced from 3,200 miles to 3,100 miles. Dimensions currently include a wingspan of 131.2 feet. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) is listed at 117,950lb.
Design plans are for all-new, Chinese-made turboprop engines to power the aircraft through constant speed propellers with an output of at least 5,000 horsepower per engine unit. The current selection remains the aged WJ-6 which is nothing more than the Chinese copy of the Soviet Ivchenko AI-20 series.
With China's ever-growing reach into the Pacific, aircraft like the TA-600 will play an ever-increasing role to asserting regional dominance over its neighbors and general instability in one of the most important commercial waterways on the planet.
July 2016 - The AG-600 was unveiled to onlookers as a static display - this as an international tribunal sided against Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
November 2016 - The AG-600 amphibian was on public display as part of the 11th Zhuhai Air Show.
November 2016 - There are seventeen AG-600 committed to orders. A first-flight is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2017.
December 2017 - An AG-600 aircraft recorded the series first-flight on December 24th, 2017. It remains under development heading into 2018.
October 2018 - The AG-600 has made its first-flight from water on October 20th, 2018. It flew for 14 minutes near the Jingmen Zhanghe Airport (Hubei). First-deliveries are scheduled for 2022.