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An AG600 (foreground) at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in 2016. Image credit: Alert5 via Wikimedia Commons

China has broken the record for flying the world’s largest amphibious airplane. On Sunday, Dec. 24 the four-engine AG600 flew for about an hour over the South China Sea, according to Reuters.

The plane is part of a military upgrade effort among increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei all claim overlapping areas of the South China Sea.

Developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, the AG600’s first flight was delayed to December from an initially planned flight earlier this year after results of ground tests in April. The exact cause of the delay is unknown.

The AG600 is designed to support the military and civil workers with marine rescue and firefighting capabilities. Depending on mission requirements, it can carry up to 50 people, or siphon 12 metric tons of water in 20 seconds to equip it for firefighting in forested areas. It is also relatively flexible in terms of the space needed for landing, since it can land or take off at conventional airports or in the water. Maximum flight range is 2,800 miles, which, chief designer Huang Lingcai said in the Chinese state paper China Daily, enables it to make round trips from the Chinese province of Hainan to James Shoal, a Chinese-claimed island adjacent to Borneo.

The Aviation Industry Corp of China has received 17 orders for the AG600 so far from both government departments and Chinese companies.

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