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Saturday, June 2, 2012

CLAW-ING AHEAD: Tejas clan who overcame tech denials turns 20

By Anantha Krishnan M

Express News Service

Bangalore: First they were denied technology by the West. They took it in their stride and decided to go the desi way. Then came the mother of all shocks. Some of them wanted to get married, but the prospective brides ran away, thanks to their plight. Marriage proposals vanished from the radar at supersonic speeds. Down, but not out, they stuck as one team chasing a national dream set by A P J Abdul Kalam in 1992. Their mission: To build fly-by-wire flight Control Laws (CLAW) for the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) programme.
India's top CLAW brain and NAL's
Acting Director Shyam Chetty.
It was 20 years ago when Kalam took the decision to form the national CLAW team with scientists and engineers mainly chosen from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). “In 1992, ADA floated a global tender seeking consultancy for developing six critical technologies, including developing CLAW for Tejas. They got responses for all five technologies, barring CLAW, which nobody was willing to part with India due to its strategic nature,” recalls NAL's acting director, Shyam Chetty.
It was on June 2, 1992, when Kalam had his first meeting of the CLAW clan in Bangalore, with CSIR-NAL as the nodal centre. “We started everything from ground zero and (Dr) Kalam had a huge impact on us. Most of the team members worked for close to 18 hours every day. We are delighted that today our CLAW is one of the successful part of Tejas that is getting into the Indian Air Force's inventory. We have completed all parameters for the initial operational clearance (IOC) phase,” said Shyam.
In the process, the CLAW team also mastered Wake Encounter Simulation – a critical area for the Tejas programme. “Wake simulation is a very complicated and challenging modelling control problem. Aerodynamics is simulated by splitting the aircraft into seven components and computing forces and moments on each component,” said NAL sources.
ADA sources told Express that the CLAW team has made the life of pilots simpler. “He is fed only what he needs. The HOTAS (Hands on Throttle-And-Stick) ensures that the pilot is at absolute ease during his mission,” sources said, adding, “Tejas is an unstable platform and it is CLAW that acts as its brain.”
The success story of CLAW did not come easy for those involved. The bad publicity that Tejas got in early days and low salaries ensured that most of the team members (men) had a tough time in finding suitable brides. “Yes. It's true and many of our team mates faced this problem. Our job profile was such that no father dared to give her daughter. Some of my colleagues even had to undergo counselling. All that is past and we are all happily married now. But can't believe how 20 years flew past,” said a senior NAL scientist.
To mark the 20th anniversary of CLAW team's formation, NAL is organising an event today (June 2) with CSIR director-general S K Brahmachari, Tejas project chief P S Subramaniam, NAL acting director Shyam Chetty and former ADA head Kota Harinarayana lined up as speakers. Sure to be etched in emotions, the big boys of Indian aerospace might share the story as to how they hung on to their goal to make India self-reliant. And, in the process winning the hearts of their other-halves, who chose them as the suitable boys for the sky party.
Copyright@The New Indian Express
(Team CLAW was profiled on the blog during Tejas IOC-1 event in Bangalore and some points for today's piece are taken from it.)

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