Harbin SH-5

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Harbin SH-5




The SH-5 is a waterborne anti-submarine bomber with four engines, designed by the 605 Research Institute and trial-produced by the 122 Factory. Its primary purpose is to conduct maritime reconnaissance and patrol missions. Additionally, it has the capability to monitor and engage surface ships. Apart from operating in sea environments, this aircraft can also take off and land in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that meet specific clearance conditions. These conditions include a water depth of over 3 meters, a length of 1,500 meters, and a width of 300 meters.

In 1955, China established its seaplane force, acquiring several Be-6 seaplanes from the Soviet Union. However, these aircraft proved inadequate for China’s expansive sea area. By the late 1960s, the retirement of these seaplanes was imminent, necessitating the urgent development of new seaplanes. Consequently, plans were made to establish the Seaplane Design Institute (605) in 1968, with its design being formulated during its establishment. The program demonstration commenced in July 1968 and was officially reported to the Central Committee in October. On December 9, Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai formally granted their approval for the development program of the SH-5. This program was a collaborative effort between the 605th Institute and the 122nd Factory. Three aircraft were produced for trial purposes, with the No. 001 machine serving as a Static testing machine, while No. 002 and 003 were developed and tested as flight prototypes.

To expedite the development process, personnel from the 605th Institute and the army were deployed to Factory 122 in April 1969 to carry out a “three combinations” design. This design was successfully completed by February 1970. The overall design and production drawings were finalized between March and October. By utilizing new process methods, the trial production progress was accelerated. The aircraft was ultimately assembled on August 29, 1971, and promptly transported to Yao County, where strength tests were conducted by 623. The machine was subjected to a weight capacity of 110%, resulting in its complete destruction. However, the strength of the aircraft met the design requirements.

The No. 002 prototype for test flight was completed and taxied on the ground in December 1973. Subsequently, in October 1974, the 002 aircraft were transported to Jingmen Zhanghe Reservoir for test flight. The aircraft was then launched into the water for the first time in May 1975. Over the course of the following months, a series of static water tests and water taxiing tests were conducted, accumulating a total of 30 hours and 28 items. On April 3, 1976, a successful water take-off and landing test flight was carried out by a SH-5, piloted by Huang Xinghui and other crew members, with a flight duration of 23 minutes. Finally, in December 1979, the General Staff Headquarters officially approved the deployment of the SH-5 into service.

After the inaugural flight, Factory 122 initiated the trial production of a batch of 4 aircraft in 1980.

During a test flight landing in June 1982, a bracket broke and all four flaps detached. Despite this perilous situation, the test pilot skillfully managed to bring the plane to a safe landing, demonstrating both composure and exceptional bravery. Thankfully, both the crew and the aircraft were unharmed. However, this incident cast a shadow over the future of the SH-5.

In early 1983, the Ministry of Aviation Industry announced its intention to discontinue the development of the SH-5 aircraft and prepare for its scrapping. Nevertheless, General Li Jing, Deputy Commander of the Navy, proposed that the Navy should take charge of further developing the model. Following thorough investigation and research, the project was allowed to continue. In February 1984, funds were allocated to ensure the continuity of SH-5’s development. However, due to plan adjustments and other factors, the pace of aircraft development slowed down during this period.

Between November 15th and December 15th, 1985, a total of 22 flights were operated over the course of 18 days.

Upon the completion of a test flight, the aircraft was officially handed over to the troops. Starting from 1986, the SH-5 was gradually outfitted within the Navy for experimental purposes.

On May 6, 1987, an unprecedented and exceptionally massive forest fire broke out in the Daxing’anling region of China. The 605 Institute proposed the conversion of the Shuihong-5 into a “water bomber” to combat and prevent forest fires. Following the approval of Premier Li Peng, the modification test (No. 9133) was conducted on the 04 aircraft. In June 1987, the SH-5 forest fire-fighting variant (SH-5B) successfully carried out its inaugural fire-fighting mission. The aircraft gracefully glided on the water surface of the reservoir at a speed of 130 kilometers per hour, swiftly filling its internal water tank with a capacity of 8.3 tons in just 10 seconds. Subsequently, the aircraft accelerated and taxied for 500 meters before taking off from the water. Upon reaching the designated water drop site, the aircraft deployed its flaps, descended, and decelerated to a speed of 210 kilometers per hour. It then opened the water tank door, swiftly pouring 8.3 tons of water in a mere 2 to 3 seconds. The water coverage spanned approximately 4200 meters at an altitude of 30-50 meters.

The Harbin SH-5 is still in use Today.

Technical Data


Crew - 8

Length - 38.9 m

Height - 9.79m

Wingspan - 36 m

Empty Weight - 27,724 kg

Gross Weight - 36,000 kg

Max Takeoff Weight - 45,000 kg

Engine - 4 x Dogan WJ-5A Turboprop Engines (2,350 kW each)

Max Speed - 557 km/h at 6000 m

Range - 4,906 km

Service Ceiling - 10,250 m

Rate of Climb - 9 m/s

Water Running Details

Takeoff Run - 548 m

Landing run - 240 m

Takeoff Speed - 160 km/h

Landing Speed - 92 km/h


1 x 2 x Type-23-2 23mm Cannons in dorsal turret

6 x 500 kg mines

22 x PLAB-100

4 x ET52 Torpedoes

(Planned but canceled) 4 x YJ-1 (C-101) ASM’s


Type 773 Radar

MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) (in tail)

Ballistic Computed Bombsight










(Book)China’s Navy Ships and Aircraft of the People’s Republic of China, 1955 - 2021 (Page B-18)

Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft, vol.3 (Page 198 - 202)


Looks so cute for some reason