Boat Background

On 1 February 1965, Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (NAVADGRP MACV), published a staff study entitled "Naval Craft Requirements in a Counter Insurgency Environment."

In the opening promulgation, Captain William Hughlett Hardcastle Jr, noted, "COIN water operations are difficult, demanding, and unique. A prevalent belief has been that COIN craft can readily be obtained from existing commercial and naval sources when needed. Unfortunately, no concerted effort has been made to develop COIN craft specifically suited to perform the many missions needed to combat insurgent activities."

In essence the Navy did not care about small, shallow draft patrol craft before, and were caught short.

The requirements for a small COIN (Counter Insurgency) craft were listed as:

  1. Reliable and sturdy.
  2. Non-wooden hull, with screw and rudder protection against groundings.
  3. Self-sufficient for 400-500 mile patrol.
  4. Speed of 20/25 knots.
  5. Small high-resolution radar (Range up to 4-6 miles.)
  6. Reliable long-range communications equipment, and equipment compatible with Army and Air Force equipment.
  7. Quiet operation.
  8. Armament for limited offense.
  9. Sparse berthing, no messing.
10. Fathometer, accurate from 0-50 feet.
11. Small, powerful searchlight.

In early June 1965, the Navy did not have any suitable patrol boats, but when the word went out that they needed a boat about 50 feet in length, that was fast, and could carry suitable weapons, it was then up to CDR Cabell Seal Davis Jr to find something quick. He had a GS-14 on his staff that also worked with ARPA, a government research tank. This civilian recalled that there was a boat builder on the Gulf of Mexico, making water taxis, that were used to service the gulf oil rigs. A few days after presenting this information to CDR Davis, CDR Davis and his boss, RADM Sunishine (BUSHIPS), along with a lawyer and a contract specialist, went to visit Sewart Seacraft in Berwick, Louisiana . On the spot the Navy bought the rights to the drawings for the "swift boat." Sewart Seacraft was also asked to prepare some modified drawings, that were to include a gun tub, ammo lockers, bunks, and a small galley.

The drawings were ready within a week, and the Navy used them to advertise for bids from other boat builders, besides Sewart Seacraft. Although other boat builders did bid on the project, Sewart Seacraft was selected, only two weeks later. The whole process had taken a little more than one month. This was mid July 1965.

Our "Swift Boat" design was adapted from this all-metal crew boat, being used to support the off-shore oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Navy Bureau of Ships had required more than fifty military modifications to the commercial design. These changes included two (2) .50-caliber machine guns, in a Mark 17 turret above the pilot house, an over and under .50-caliber machine gun/81 mm mortar combination, mounted on the rear deck, the construction of a mortar ammunition box on the stern, the installation of habitability equipment such as bunks, a refrigerator and freezer, and a sink within the boat, as well as other minor equipment additions or modifications to make the SWIFT compatible with the requirements of military operations.

In spite of all these changes, the first four (4) boats were delivered to the U.S. Navy in a mere forty (40) days.  The first two SWIFTs, #'s 1 and 2, designated by the Navy as Patrol Craft Fast (PCF), arrived via railroad shipment, at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA, for shakedown in late August 1965.  These craft were permanently assigned to Coronado as training boats for the new PCF crews and maintenance team personnel, who had begun to arrive in strength at the Amphibious Base by mid-September of 1965.

Meanwhile PCF's 3 and 4 were transferred directly by MSTS carrier from New Orleans to Subic Bay, PI, arriving on 15 September 1965.  They were met by an advance detachment of Squadron personnel who immediately commenced outfitting the boats for their deployment to the RVN.

The original order was for twenty (20) boats and was followed by an additional order for thirty-eight (38) and then by a final order for fifty (50) more of the "Swift" Mark I design, all were built by Sewart Seacraft Inc. of Berwick, LA., in 1965-66.

Thirty (30) Mark II, with a modified deck house, were constructed in 1968.  Three (3) of the Mark II swift boats were actually used in Vietnam service by the US Navy, PCF-137 and 138, in Coastal Division 13 at Cat Lo, and PCF-139 in Coastal Division 12 at DaNang.

Thirty-three (33) Mark III, which were slightly larger than the Mark II,  were constructed in 1970 and 1972.  Five (5) of the Mark III swift boats were actually used in Vietnam service by the US Navy, PCF-691, 692, 693, 694 and 695 all in Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi.

A total of one hundred seventy-one (171) Mark I, II and III swift boats were constructed for the United States Navy, the Philippine Navy, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil and Zaire.   In addition, the Philippines and South Vietnam each built one (1) prototype ferro-cement Swift boat as part of a United States sponsored program for inexpensive mass production of the craft.


Vietnam Construction
Shipbuilder Type Pennant #s Design # of Boats Length Tons FY of Purchase Delivery
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6501-16 Mark I 20 50 23 1965 1965-66
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6601-38 Mark I 38 50 23 1966 1966-67
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6639-88 Mark I 50 50 23 1966 1966-67
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6801-08 Mark II 8 50 23 1968 1968-69
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6809-30 Mark II 22 50 23 1968 1968-69
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 6901-13 Mark III 13 50 23 1970 1970-70
Sewart Seacraft PCF 50NS 7201-20 Mark III 20 50 23 1972 1972-73



   Although the idea of utilizing ferro-cement for naval construction was first experimented with in Europe during the mid-nineteenth century, the Vietnamese Navy was not introduced to it until May 1970. Quick to see some of the possibilities for ferro-cement waterborne craft, the Vietnamese Navy began construction of a proto-type ferro-cement junk. This project was completed in September 1970 when the first ferro-cement junk was launched at the Vietnamese Naval Shipyard in Saigon.
   With the purpose of the ferro-cement building program outlined to provide the Vietnamese  Navy the capability to meet their operational requirements for boats, the decision was made to design and develop a ferro-cement Swift boat (PCF) similar in construction t the aluminum US PCF's and an experimental river craft termed the "Viper." After the Vietnamese Navy engineers had completed the design of the vessel, they and the Vietnamese Naval Shipyard employees joined forces to complete the prototype of each craft in a short four months.
   On the afternoon of 20 December 1970, the launching of the two vessels was held at the shipyard in Saigon. Commodore Tran Van Chon, Chief of Naval Operations, Vietnamese Navy, and Ambassador William E. Colby, Deputy COMUSMACV for the Committee on Revolutionary Developments, were the principal speakers at the impressive ceremony.   
   The ferro-cement Swift boat displaces 55,000 pounds, and it is 50 foot one and one-half inches long, 12 foot six and one-half inches at the beam. It has a designed top speed of approximately 20 knots and has armament identical to the aluminum USN PCF's.
   The 28 foot Viper is an experimental river craft designed for river interdiction missions and escort and heavier fire support for the PBR's. It displaces 12,000 pounds and has a top speed of approximately 16 knots. The Viper will be armed with an automatic grenade launcher and two M-60 machine guns. It will be manned by a crew of four. 
   The construction of the ferro-cement hulls begins with a steel framework which is covered inside and out with an eight-layer, interwoven mesh of chicken wire. The mesh hull is filled with a mixture of portland cement, fozzolan, and sand. Both sides of the hull are smoothed, and it is allowed to damp-cure. The cured hull is finally worked with abrasives and chemicals and then sealed with epoxy resin to insure water tightness. A slight modification in the construction of the Viper involved the use of a wooden mold in conjunction with the steel and chicken wire framework.
   The cost of the ferro-cement PCF is approximately one-half of the USN aluminum version. Similarly, the construction cost of the ferro-cement Viper is approximately one sixth the estimated cost of a fiberglass version.
Vietnamese ferro-cement PCF --- chicken-wire over steel framework (Saigon Naval Shipyard October 1970) 
Ferro-cement PCF 2 
Launching ceremony of Vietnamese ferro-cement PCF-2 on 20 December 1970 at the Vietnamese Naval Shipyard, Saigon, RVN
Post Vietnam Construction - (Mark IV & V)
Shipbuilder Type Pennant #s Design # of Boats Length Tons FY of Purchase Delivery
Swiftships PB 65PB 721 Mark I 1 65 33 1971  
Swiftships PB 65PB 722 Mark I -Mod 1 2 65 33 1972  
Peterson PB 65PB 7501-10 Mark III 10 65 33 1977  
Peterson PB   Mark IV 3 68   1985  
Halter Marine LCW   Mark V 40 83 68 1994 1995-1999

- 65PB721 & 65PB722 were powered by a pair of 600hp Detroit Diesels, model 7082-7399. Electrical power was provided by an ONAN model MDJC 15kw, 120v AC generator.

65PB721photo.gif (156633 bytes)

Photo of Swiftships 65PB721 taken from 65PB722




Direct Exports
Shipbuilder Country Type Pennant #s Design # of Boats Length Tons Delivery
Sewart Seacraft Philippines PCF   Mark IV 25 65 33 1972-75
Peterson Philippines PCF   Mark III 4 65 28 1975-76
Swiftships Bahrain PB 30-31 Mark I -Mod 1 2 65 33 1982
Halter Philippines PCF     17 78 56 1990-96
Halter Saudi Arabia PCF     17 78 56 1992-93
Peterson Albania PB   Mark III 3 65 28 1997


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This page was last updated on: January 01, 2014 at 14:54