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Harbin SH-5 (Shuishang Hongzhaji) - China, 1986

Detailing the development and operational history of the Harbin SH-5 (Shuishang Hongzhaji) Amphibious Flying Boat / Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 6/26/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

Introduced in 1986, the Harbin SH-5 flying boat was only procured through seven total examples.

The Harbin SH-5 became a locally designed and developed flying boat for the Chinese Navy ("PLAN") during the latter stages of the Cold War (1947-1991). Design work on the type began in 1968 from the abortive Objective 3/17 program which resulted in a working prototype completing its first flight on April 3rd, 1976. However, the development phase proved rather lengthy for the aircraft did not see formal introduction into the PLAN inventory until 1986. Limited serial production spanned from 1984 until 1985 to which just seven examples were ultimately produced. The line still sees operational service today (2015) though it is ready to be superseded by more modern types such as the in-development AVIC "TA-600".

The series is no doubt influenced by Soviet-era flying boats - its hull is boat-like and allows for water landings and take-off with the cockpit set high above the nose with a commanding view of the terrain ahead. The wing mainplanes are of a monoplane design and shoulder-mounted, each fitted with a pair of engines along their leading edges as well as underslung floats for on-water stability. The tail unit features a twin vertical tail arrangement and is fitted atop the fuselage aft. While the SH-5 is primarily a water-based system it retains a wheeled undercarriage for functionality on land. In this way, the series is a true amphibian with excellent maritime capabilities - chiefly versatility and range.

The SH-5 sees a typical operating crew of eight. Its payload capacity can reach up to 22,000 pounds and the airframe is rated for up to 13,000 pounds of armament-carrying. Dimensions include an overall length of 127.6 feet, a wingspan of 118 feet and a height of 32 feet. Empty weight is 55,115 pounds with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) listed at 99,200 pounds. Power is served through 4 x "Dongan" WJ5A series turboprop engines developing 3,150 horsepower apiece while driving 4 x four-bladed constant speed propellers with an integrated reverse feature (the Dongan also powers the Xian Y-7 transport). Performance specifications include a maximum speed of 345 miles per hour, a cruising speed of 280 miles per hour, a range out to 3,000 miles, and a service ceiling of 33,630 feet. The avionics fit is comprised of Doppler search radar unit housed in the nose. A Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) boom is extended from the tail section as needed.

In terms of armament, the SH-5 supports various maritime-related weapon systems including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) torpedoes, Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs), depth charges, naval mines and conventional drop bombs across four external hardpoints.

"SH-5" has been used to designate the original production models which included the sole prototype and four production-quality forms. This led to the "SH-5A" mark which were essentially SH-5 airframes outfitted with ELectronic INTelligence (ELINT) equipment for the maritime patrol role. At least one of the SH-5 batch was modified to serve in the firefighting role and designated as "PS-5".

One SH-5 is known to have been lost in a crash, this occurring during 2013 and costing the lives of all of its crewmembers.

Harbin SH-5 (Shuishang Hongzhaji) Specifications

Service Year: 1986
Type: Amphibious Flying Boat / Maritime Patrol Aircraft
National Origin: China
Manufacturer(s): Harbin Aircraft Factory - China
Total Production: 7

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 8
Overall Length: 127.62 feet (38.9 meters)
Overall Width: 118.11 feet (36.00 meters)
Overall Height: 32.12 feet (9.79 meters)

Weight (Empty): 55,116 lb (25,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 99,208 lb (45,000 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 4 x Dongan WJ5A turboprop engines developing 3,150 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 300 knots (345 mph; 555 kph)
Maximum Range: 2,568 nautical miles (2,955 miles; 4,756 km)
Service Ceiling: 33,629 feet (10,250 meters; 6.37 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,800 feet-per-minute (549 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

Variable: Up to 13,000 pounds of stores including torpedoes, Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs), depth charges, naval mines, and conventional drop bombs across four underwing hardpoints.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)


Model Variants

SH-5 - Base Series Model; sources vary on exact numbers completed.
SH-5A - Dedicated Maritime Patrol Platform; conversions of existing SH-5 models for the role; three examples.
SH-5B (PS-5) - Firefighting variant; example converted from existing SH-5 airframe.