India is planning to obtain eight additional examples of the navalised variant of the Aerospace Development Agency (ADA)-Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas light combat aircraft.
A Tejas programme official confirmed media reports that India's Defence Acquisition Council has approved the deal. The order will include both single and twin-seat aircraft, but the official did not specify a delivery timeframe.
The news comes weeks after The Hindu newspapar quoted India's chief of naval staff, Admiral Verma, as saying that the ADA overemphasised on the air force version of the Tejas, which caused the launch of the naval variant to fall behind.
Despite being unveiled in July 2010, the naval version has yet to embark on its maiden flight, which was initially planned for late 2010.
In mid-2011, while the aircraft was underoing engine and ground tests, a programme official said it will fly in September or October 2011, but this target was also not met.
Like the Tejas Mk I that will be used by the air force, the current example of the navalised Tejas is powered by a single General Electric F404 engine.
However, the original plans for the navalised variant called for the more powerful F414. In addition, the F414 is planned for the Tejas Mk II, a programme that industry sources say is three-to-four years away from its first flight.
The nine additional navalised examples are likely to be powered by the F404, although it is unclear if this is powerful enough for naval operations.
Early examples of the navalised Tejas are likely to be employed at a shore-based testing facility set up at Hansa naval air station near Goa.