The first two-seat trainer example of India's Tejas naval light combat aircraft will be flown for the first time before the end of the year, following the roll out of platform NP1 in Bangalore on 6 July.
In development for the Indian navy, the new version features several design changes from the Aeronautical Development Agency's baseline Tejas, already on order for the nation's air force.
These include the use of a longer and strengthened landing gear, an arrester hook to enable landing on an aircraft carrier and additional control surfaces and a leading edge vortex controller to reduce the fighter's required speed on approach to the vessel. Its front fuselage has also been changed to provide the pilot with better visibility over the nose.
Expected to replace the navy's remaining BAe Sea Harrier FRS51 fighters, the naval Tejas will initially be powered by a General Electric F404-IN20 turbofan engine.
To provide air defence cover, the aircraft will carry weapons including beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles and conventional bombs. It should operate alongside the navy's new RSK MiG-29K carrierborne fighters.
Describing the development of a new carrier-based fighter as a "challenging and complex endeavour", defence minister A K Antony says the activity will be supported by a shore-based test facility at Hans naval air station in Goa. This will have a ski-jump to assist with take-off and runway-installed arrestor gear to simulate carrier landings, with the equipment to be sourced from Russia.
"NP1 is now ready to undergo systems integration tests leading to ground runs, taxi trials and flight," the Indian government says.
The current project also covers the production by Hindustan Aeronautics of one single-seat naval prototype dubbed NP2, to fly by late 2011, and a static test airframe. The navy has also committed to buy an initial batch of six aircraft.
The ADA says its current prototype and pre-production examples of the Indian air force's Tejas fighter have now made more than 1,400 flights. The type is expected to secure initial operational capability with the service late this year.