Safety concerns have delayed the maiden flight of the naval variant of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas light combat aircraft.
"It is very important to make sure the aircraft is safe," says an industry source. "If a disaster were to occur, it would be the end of the road for the programme."
The source says the naval variant could have its first flight "any day now". In June 2011, a programme official told Flightglobal that the navalised Tejas would have its first flight in November 2011, but this never materialised.
The source declined to provide details about the safety concerns involved in the aircraft, or what steps have been taken to rectify them. He spoke to Flightglobal at India's Defexpo 2012 trade show in New Delhi.
After being unveiled in June 2010, the naval variant has yet to conduct its first flight. Nonetheless, in early February, the Indian navy ordered eight additional examples of the variant.
Although the naval variant was to have been powered by the General Electric F414 powerplant, the eight examples the navy ordered will use the less powerful F404.
After initial flight tests from HAL's facilities in Bengaluru, the aircraft will be sent to Hansa naval air station near Goa where it will undergo carrier compatibility tests.
The source added that the F414-powered Tejas Mk II will be rolled out in early 2014, with a first flight by December 2014.
As of 31 March, the Tejas Mk I aircraft had completed 1,816 flight tests. The type received initial operational clearance in January 2011. The source says final operational clearance could be given by the end of 2012.