The second prototype of the naval variant of the Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has conducted its maiden flight.

The 35 minute sortie of the aircraft, designated NP2, took place on Saturday 7 February from HAL’s Bengaluru production facility, says the airframer in a statement.

“The event marks the growth of the indigenous LCA (Navy) programme, aimed to achieve carrier compatibility technology demonstration, including arrested landing and ski-jump take offs, initially from the shore-based test facility at Goa.”

The first flight of NP2 follows the successful ramp-assisted takeoff of the first naval Tejas prototype, NP1, from the Goa facility on 20 December, adds HAL.

NP2 incorporates a number of improvements over NP1. The aircraft can accept incremental improvements related to carrier landing aids, auto-throttle, as well as improved internal and external angle of attack indicators. NP2 is also the lead aircraft for arrestor hook integration.

The HAL statement indicates that NP2 also has strengthened landing gear over NP1, a key design element for aircraft carrier landings. NP2 also has one seat, while NP1 has two.

Both aircraft, however, are powered by the General Electric F404 engine. For carrier operations as sea, the aircraft will receive the more powerful F414 engine, which will also power the Tejas Mk II.

New Delhi has two aircraft carriers, the Viraat and Vikramaditya. Formerly the HMS Hermes, the Viraat operates BAe Sea Harriers and helicopters. It is likely to be retired in the coming years.

The short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) Vikramaditya was formerly the Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov. After years of the delays the carrier, which operates RAK MiG-29K aircraft and Kamov Ka-31 helicopters, it entered service in 2013.

New Delhi is also producing another STOBAR equipped carrier, the Vikrant, indigenously. She is expected to enter service in 2018 or afterwards. A follow-on carrier could be equipped with catapults, which would greatly improve the payload of fighters operating from its deck, and allow the use of fixed wing airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft, specifically the Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye.