The world’s largest amphibious aircraft, the China-made AG600, has passed engine tests and is expected to make its maiden flight in the first half of this year, state news agency Xinhua said.
As China adopts a more muscular approach to territorial disputes in places such as the busy South China Sea waterway, it has stepped up research on advanced new military equipment, rattling nerves in the Asia-Pacific region and in Washington.
State aircraft maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has spent almost eight years developing the AG600, and is designed to carry out marine rescues and battle forest fires.
The 37-metre-long plane with a wingspan of 38.8 metres, is about the size of a Boeing 737. It is meant to support emergency response efforts.
The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes and can collect 12 tonnes of water in 20 seconds.
In November, AVIC displayed the plane at China’s biggest meeting of aircraft makers and buyers, after it completed production of the jet in July.
The aircraft has received 17 expressions of interest so far, Xinhua said late on Tuesday, but gave no further details.
The aircraft has a maximum flight range of 4,500 km and a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes.
China also showed off its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in public for the first time at the November airshow and in June last year put into service a new, domestically-developed large transport aircraft.