Mantis prays on the Pacific
Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron 77 was selected to host the first overseas test of the Multi-Aircraft Nose and Tail Interface System (MANTIS), a nextgeneration aircraft ground transport for shipboard use.
The MANTIS smoothly responds to a Sailor’s commands which are entered on a control panel of joysticks and toggle switches, hanging from the Sailor’s neck. Almost as if playing a video game, the Sailor moves the helicopter through little effort with the help of the MANTIS.
According to Ground Support Equipment, Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Center Technician Jessie Ramsey, the MANTIS Shipboard Helo Handler - Extra-Low Profile (SHHELP) is the newest model being tested. Its unique specifications provide a sleek, low profile that sits five inches lower than the previous model.
The MANTIS is designed to operate underneath any variety of current low-sitting modifications added to the MH-60R or MH-60S Sea Hawk.
Sailors assigned to USS George Washington (CVN 73) Air Department V-3 division are always looking for ways to improve their training and expertise in the field of aviation handling. When it comes to ground support equipment, testing a new low-profile helicopter handling system is a rare and exciting opportunity.
Ramsey, who serves as the lead project engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Support Equipment Test and Evaluation Branch, and his crew of engineers selected HSM 77 as the first overseas platform for their final phase of suitability testing for the new MANTIS.
“We are looking for fleet operator feedback,” said Ramsey. “We want to know what the crew likes, what they do not like and what improvements can be made to the system. We have asked Sailors for their recommendations. We are
verifying that it can successfully complete its mission in an operational environment.”
Prior to bringing the MANTIS overseas, Ramsey said rigorous land-based testing was performed to make sure it could overcome any obstacle that it might encounter aboard a carrier before it was considered for a fleet-wide evaluation.
NAVAIR Evaluator Steve Benson said training is going well and is currently being given to Sailors in phases. V-3 personnel were introduced to the system in a brief overview and later were given full control over the MANTIS to move helicopters through the hanger and flight line.
“We have found that V-3’s Sailors have become pretty proficient within two to three moves,” said Ramsey. “They are to the point where we trust them enough to pick the MANTIS up, move a helo and put it back. If I miss a move, I am
not worried that something has gone wrong.”
After many hours of testing the system, USS George Washington (CVN 73) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Houri Oulis said he enjoyed the many unique features of the MANTIS, such as its enhanced maneuverability and ease of use.
“It is easy to operate,” said Oulis. “Basically, it is just like playing a video game. Complicated maneuvers that normally rely on the driver’s skills are made easier by this new system. I look forward to seeing how my feedback today will affect the final product.”
Benton said the new MANTIS design is expected to be implemented throughout the Navy in the near future and further design modifications will reflect much of the feedback received aboard HSM 77 and the George Washington crews.
“V-3 has been very supportive of our testing,” said Ramsey. “Our time overseas has been extremely valuable and will be reflected in the final design of the new MANTIS.”