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PS-5 / SH-5 - Program

In the early 1950s, China introduced six Soviet Be-6 seaplanes, but it was not enough to meet the various needs of the Navy. The preparation for establishment of a Water-based Aircraft Design Institute began in 1968 and the design concept of the SH-5 was approved by the government in December of the same year. Its development task were jointly undertaken by the Water-based Aircraft Design Institute and the Harbin Aircraft Factory and its design activities were directed by Wang Hongzhang, director of the Water-based Aircraft Design Institute. Three prototype aircraft were constructed in the phase of development.

The detailed design of the SH-5 was completed in February 1970 and the drawings for production were released from March to October. Afterwards the Harbin Aircraft Factory began the prototype production. A number of advanced manufacturing techniques, e.g. spot-weld bonding, sealing riveting, and chemical milling were used so that the prototype production was sped up.

The final assembly of a full size airframe was completed in October 1971, but due to the upheaval of the Chinese "Cultural Revolution", did not begin tests until August 1974 at the Aircraft Structure Strength Research Institute. The destructive load for the static destructive test of the full size airframe was 110 per cent, which was in conformity with the design requirement.

The final assembly of a SH-5 used for flight test was completed in December 1973. It was shipped to the flight test site in October 1974. The MAI and Navy Headquarters jointly set up a flight test office to control the SH-5 flight test. From May 1975 to March 1976 the SH-5 carried out 30 hours of taxi test on water surface for 28 subjects of static water tests in addition to four successful pre-flights. A grand ceremony for the SH-5 first flight was held on April 3, 1976. At 10 o'clock in the morning the SH-5 taxied into the water and took off. The flight lasted 23 minutes. The air crew consisted of 7 pilots including Huang Xinghui, a Navy air force squadron leader.

Another 4 SH-5s were built after the first flight and began their flight tests before November 1984. The flight tests were coordinated by on-site director Yang Shouwen and all four aircraft completed their flight tests on a delta course over Hubei and Hunan Provinces by the end of 1985. During the 18 flying days from November 15 to December 15, 1985 100 per cent aircraft availability and 100 per cent flight test success rate of the flight test in the planned flight subjects were reached so that the fault-free flights were realized. The SH-5s had been delivered to Chinese Navy and the type was awarded a First Class Prize of the National Science and Technology Progress in 1987.

The development of the SH-5 began in the years of the "great cultural revolution". The turmoil of the political situation at that time and lack of experience and necessary infrastructure made the development of the SH-5 extremely difficult. But it still proceeded very well due to the hard work of the leading cadres, engineers and workers. They completed the general layout and technical designs, structure and system designs and wind tunnel and water tank tests for geometry definition in first 18 months and the manufacturing and assembly of parts and sub-assemblies as well as the final assembly of the aircraft in second 18 months. The production cycle of first two SH-5s was 4 years and 10 months. This speed reflected in one aspect that the Chinese aviation industry had already a comparable high technical basis and state of the art for aircraft development.

The slow pace of the program continued, a single production batch of six aircraft being completed in 1984 and 1985, with four of them handed over to the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force in 1986. They had been retained in service, and may have received some combat electronic system updates.

The Chinese bomber industry had a considerable development and reached a certain scale. But a big gap between Chinese bomber industry and the world advanced bomber industry still exists. The ability to develop new bombers will be gradually improved in future with further construction of the infrastructure and introduction of foreign advanced technology.

Mainly used in the past waters for maritime reconnaissance, patrol, anti-submarine search and other tasks can also be used for surveillance and attack surface ships. In addition to landing at sea, the rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the landing. SH-5 can be used or adapted to forest fire fighting, 1988 SH-5 converted into a forest fire extinguisher carried out on the lake in the forest for water and drowned tests.

Meanwhile the four operational SH-5s were operated by the PLA Navy North Sea Fleet in a dedicated seaplane base near Qingdao, Shandong Province. They are mainly used for maritime patrol and surveillance missions. Unconfirmed report indicated that some, if not all, SH-5s are fitted with electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment.

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