History of Patrol Craft Fast (PCF)
"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."
(The original of the above text can be found at www.swiftboats.net. Text Copyright © 1998-1999-2000-2001-2002-2003 Lawrence J. Wasikowski.)