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Single-operator system is cost-effective for smaller ships

Warship Technology: March 2016

A more compact and lighter variant of the company’s proven Twin Claw Assist (TC-ASIST) handling system, the new Manual Aircraft Straighten and Traverse (MAST) system is track-based and controlled using a chest pack-mounted portable control unit worn by the operator while working alongside the aircraft. This approach eliminates the need for a permanent helicopter handling systems console on a space-constrained ship. The MAST system, which is part of Curtiss-Wright’s Indal-branded product range, combines design attributes of the proven Italian Navy TC-ASIST (as selected for the Orrizonte/FREMM frigates) with elements from the UK Royal Navy’s MANTIS handler.

MAST is landing grid-compatible and safely and securely manoeuvres and traverses a wide range of helicopters, including the Lynx, EH-101 and Dauphin, between the flight deck and the hangar. Enabling helicopter missions in harsh environments, MAST is designed to deliver optimal performance in all weather conditions, day and night, in sea conditions up to sea state 6.

“As naval helicopter deployments increase around the globe, rotor craft are more frequently tasked with landing onboard smaller ships,” said Lynn Bamford, senior vice-president and general manager, Defense Solutions division. “MAST is the first to deliver a low-cost, single-operator solution for securing and traversing helicopters on space constrained smaller vessels,”
he claimed.

Speaking to Warship Technology, Don McKay, the company’s director of sales and marketing, said there was a noticeable trend towards the procurement of smaller surface combatants and towards equipping smaller units with a helicopter handling capability. “Whereas TC-ASIST is a twin track system, MAST is a single track unit, with which we have combined a lot of the functionality of MANTIS. This means we can meet the needs of  handling systems for smaller vessels at an attractive price point but provide the same level of security to users. With the ASIST and TC-ASSIST at the upper end of our range and MANTIS, our traversing system, we feel that with MAST we can provide coverage across the entire range of helicopter handling systems.” The US Navy is understood to favour ASIST for the DDG 1000 and Flight 3 DDG 51 destroyers. The company is under contract to provide ASIST to the Royal Canadian Navy’s Joint Support Ship programme. ASIST is also understood to be the preferred choice for the Royal Australian Navy’s Air Warfare Destroyer. A version of MANTIS was selected for the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Once the MAST system has fully engaged it provides the helicopter with total security from toppling or sliding. After landing, the system secures the helicopter via a simple interface with the helicopter main landing gear. MAST enables re-centring and alignment of the helicopter with the track axis and traversing the helicopter between the flight deck landing spot and the hangar. Additionally, the system can be used to easily position the helicopter to optimise alignment for external stores loading.

Curtiss-Wright says MAST has a number of advantageous features. These include providing positive securing against sliding and toppling and fully controlled and guided movement during straightening and traversing. The company says the system requires minimal operator training and precise alignment and positioning of aircraft during traversing through hangar door. It is also an intrinsically safe design because the operator is not in contact with airframe and there are no exposed cables on deck. The system also only requires one operator on deck for full system functionality.

In order to quantify system requirements and to define optimised operating envelopes for the general sea state conditions, Curtiss-Wright can undertake a dynamic interface analysis (DIA) of the ship’s response to the seaway and the ship-helicopter dynamic system as a part of initial design activities. According to Curtiss-Wright’s Mackay, the company is building a prototype of the MAST and is talking to a number of navies about using it.

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