Review - S&S Precision Manta Strobe MS-0015
Updated: Jan 20
History of S&S Precision
S&S was founded in 2007 and is owned by veterans, a factor that weighs heavily on their
designs, manufacturing and end products. Their products are made for use by Military Units, Federal Government and Law Enforcement Professionals. The expanding company employs various engineering and technical specialists and their products are shipped worldwide.
For more info - visit S&S Precision website.
Why S&S Precision?
The helmet setups seen throughout the SEAL Team seasons rarely change, and one of the main pieces of specialist equipment seen attached was the S&S Precision Manta Strobe. The Manta Strobes used were genuine issue and definitely not the imitation versions that you can pickup everywhere, another great nod to detail. The team have them fixed for most deployments as they have use in both day and night time conditions.
The strobes seen utilised by Bravo are generally used at night and in several episodes are seen active when conducting their HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) and HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jumps, allowing through NVDs the operators to identify where their team mates are. Their use in built up urban environments helps to identify to overhead surveillance assets the teams locations and whilst operating in tunnels or house clearing, again the strobe helps to clearly mark friendlies.
Herein lies the product description from the website;
The Manta Strobe is a helmet mounted multi-spectrum light emitter optimised for Military Operations. Our goal is clear; keep it simple for the end user, provide the highest level of performance through “Select” Electronic components combined with smart programming for highest output and extended battery life.
Zero overt light AD….
100% user confidence in Infrared Mode with Vibrating feedback
Intuitive One-handed operation
Multiple Infrared and Overt LEDs generate an overlapping and omnidirectional light emission
Curved base specifically for helmets
Lightest weight and lowest profile in its power class
Tool-less battery change out - CR-123 3v
Downward (”Low”) facing Infrared Emitter (positive IFF for close in work with minimal glare)
Upward (“High”) facing Infrared Emitters (multiple emitters delivering a peak IR signal for maximum distance)
IPX8 = Manufacturer Rated – Waterproof 150’, Zero water penetration in Main Housing or Partitioned Battery Compartment
Primary Overt LED/s are visible beyond the FAR 105.19 requirement (3 Statute Miles)
MS-0011 (Green Overt) NSN# 6210016298285
MS-0012 (IR Low/High White)
MS-0013 (White Overt LED)
MS-0014 (Green/White Jump Version)
MS-0015 (IR Low/High Jump Version) NSN# 6230016302690
The below table illustrates the main differences between the variants.
What does it actually mean?
IFF - Identification Friend or Foe
IPX8 - this is the International Protection regarding protection of equipment from water, dust, electromagnetic interference etc. Further details for IP can be found on Wikipedia. For the MS-0015, the code stands for;
IP - International Protection.
X - no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to this criteria.
8 - immersion proof 1m (3'3") or more. Testing agreed with manufacturer, generally 3m.
FAR 105.19 requirement - This relates to the Federal Aviation Regulation and the requirements for parachute operations taking place between sunset and sunrise. Legal explanation here.
Visibility - In overt mode 'white light' the strobe is visible up to 3+ nautical miles.
In near-infrared mode the strobe is visible up to 6+ nautical miles.
Manta Strobe in detail
This section will cover the actual Manta Strobe (MS) and it's important to note that there are a number of functions based on which model you've purchased. I purchased the MS-0015 variant which includes the IR Low/High Jump version, in keeping with the same variant as used by Bravo.
A useful comparison on the manufactured strobes through the generations can be found here;
The patent for the Manta Strobe was submitted in 2011 and the actual patent documentation provides a huge wealth of information and background regarding the design, history, observations etc. The patent information can be found here.
The Manta Strobe comes in a small simple box where the exterior has an illustration of the strobe on the front and sides. The rear provides some basic information as covered on the S&S website. Additionally the rear has the strobe model purchased (MS-0015) sticker attached and related patent number.
The strobe as mentioned comes with the Manta Webbing Adapter (MWA-0001) which is already fitted to the strobe. The strobe is lightweight, weighing in at only 1.05oz (42.5gm). Not only light, it is small measuring 3" x 2" x 1.3" (7.6cm x 5.23cm x 3.47cm) and it can easily fit inside your palm. There are no rough edges and the plastic moulded exterior is tight and correctly fitted. The underside has hook velcro fitted allowing attachment to loop velcro on a helmet.
The adapter is made up of two pieces (male & female). The female part shown on the right hand side has two 'wings', which when fitted onto the strobe, can aid the user in locating the buttons to change mode either in low light conditions or when gloves are worn.
The adapter is not required if you want to mount the strobe directly to your helmet.
Of note is that the strobe tail cap must be removed to fit the adapter to the strobe.
Strobe with adapter fitted
These images show what the strobe looks like with the webbing adapter fitted. The clear plastic used for the shell is slightly frosted which helps to eliminate high shine from the strobe when it's active. The entire top shell of the strobe is frosted and devoid of anything that may overhang it, to maximise the exposure of the strobe lights for on the ground forces and those in the air.
Strobe without adapter fitted
The images below show what the strobe looks like without the webbing adapter fitted. The strobe shell at the rear still has wings, although they are less prominent for button guidance and it does allow slightly more light to be exposed when active.
Vibrating Feedback Motor
The Manta Strobe features a vibrating feedback motor that allows the user to feel (very slightly) when the modes are being changed when the operator presses the mode buttons. The motor activates every 3 seconds. Highlighted in the image is the motor, which when active can be seen to move slightly due to the vibrations.
Mode buttons are present on both the left and right hand side. Both buttons must be pressed simultaneously to change mode. The buttons can be activated one handed, useful if shouldering a weapon at the time. The buttons are silicon composite and stiff, ensuring that they can't be accidentally pressed and modes toggled.
Hybrid Tail Cap
The Manta Strobe tail cap has evolved over time, to best suit military and law enforcement users. Listening to feedback from all arms and acting positively, S&S Precision created this 4th Gen 'Hybrid Tail Cap'. The strobe that I purchased came with the latest tail cap, machined from high grade aluminium. The central button again is a silicon composite that requires strong pressure to activate the button, either turning the strobe on or off.
Of note is that the strobe retains no 'memory'. Each time a mode is activated and then the whole unit is powered off, when powered on again, it restarts on the first mode (IR strobe effect downwards).
Fitting strobe to helmet (direct)
The strobe is designed to be directly fitted onto helmets and is typically mounted on the rear of the helmet above where NVD battery cases are mounted to the rear of the helmet. The underside of the strobe is slightly curved to take into account the curvature of a helmet and if fitted onto a flat surface, the strobe would not be 100% securely fixed and there may be a small gap between strobe and helmet. Relying purely on the velcro may put some users off, and there are three separate ways to deal with mounting a strobe;
Mount strobe directly using velcro on rear of helmet and ensure it's firmly fixed.
Mount strobe on helmet, using a single piece of thread, it can be wound around the tail cap groove highlighted in red in the picture below (not around the o-ring as this will slice through it over time). Once attached, the thread can then be fed into the helmet and attached inside, barely visible to the casual observer, yet providing some extra security when moving through dense undergrowth or traversing through an urban environment at speed.
Purchase a helmet cover that incorporates a strobe secure strap. These straps fit over the strobe holding it firmly in place and adding another layer of security to the strobe. The ODG Hybrid helmet cover I use, shows the strap in use in the last two pictures. Whilst this does cover a portion of the strobe, the light is still emitted and visible.
In the majority of cases for Bravo, their strobe was mounted rearwards of the helmet but has been seen on occasion on the very top. In an urban area or undergrowth, this could snag and get ripped off, so recommendation is to mount it rearwards.
Fitting strobe to plate carrier (webbing adapter)
Not all users will want to mount the strobe to a helmet, especially if operating in a dense jungle environment where light headgear may be chosen and worn, or if fitted to a rucksack whilst operating in urban alleys. The webbing adapter allows the user to mount the strobe to any molle securely and quickly. The single sheet included in the box has on the rear of it a Webbing Adapter (WA) guide for fitting.
The images below show the stages of fitting the strobe to molle on a side armour plate. The female part is first inserted into the molle and then the male part is fed through the molle to clip into the female part. As seen in the 5th picture below, there are two grooves on the front of the strobe and two corresponding guides on the male part of the WA. The guides slot into and hold firmly in place the strobe into the WA. To remove the strobe, the two clips on the bottom of the male piece must be squeezed together and the whole male piece pushed upwards (or downwards depending on which way it was mounted).
The strobe is able to produce green, white and IR light. Unfortunately I don't possess night vision at this time (NVD inbound) and as such was unable to provide a video of the IFF in use, however, S&S Precision have made a promotional video which is linked further below demonstrating the Low & High functions up close and at distance of the IR light. Below references output when powering on the unit and the output per button press;
Power on IR strobe down
Press 1 IR strobe up
Press 2 Green solid up
Press 3 Green solid up + White strobe up
The following video demonstrates the solid green light and the solid green light & white strobe light emitted.
Thoughts and opinion
The S&S Precision Manta Strobe MS-0015 is by far one element of my kit that I'm most pleased with. The build quality is as expected from a veteran run company, rugged, tough, infantry proof etc. I've got no doubt that a fall or knock from a helmet mount onto the ground will cause little damage. I expect the damage it does sustain would be superficial. The lightweight aspect of the strobe, again, helps to reduce neck strain due to too much weight on the helmet which is a plus in my opinion. The relative small size also means real estate on the helmet is not compromised. The light emitted for IR, green and white light do so exactly as described. Whilst this may not be a necessary addition for your kit, it's certainly an investment. If you're tackling live firing on the ranges at night, conducting night time manoeuvres using vehicles or airborne assets etc, this is a must have piece of equipment. The different models and emitted light also allow the user to choose a strobe to suit their requirements. It boils down to the fact that it's your choice between purchasing a unique piece of reliable kit or spending the money elsewhere. I know where I would spend mine.
Once I can get back to the ranges, I will be producing a video to demonstrate the strobe in use in both an urban and woodland environment, along with a further video demonstrating the IR capabilities.
I am not paid for my blogs by the manufacturers or companies that I purchase my items from. I am not offered freebies to promote a product. These blogs are purely written from my own experience in truth to help advise and inform others who may wish to purchase the items or understand more about them. If I am sent a freebie to review this will be stated at the beginning to make you aware.