Military Review

Hovercraft in Vietnam. PACV SK-5

14

Hovercraft PACV SK-5


The Vietnam War is familiar to many exclusively from films. An important part of our perceptions and memories of this war are helicopters, which the Americans used in large quantities. At the same time, the mosquito fleet was also widely used in Vietnam, which moved along the rivers, providing patrolling, reconnaissance and delivery of goods.

One of the brightest films that combined two important sides of the Vietnam War is the famous film Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Much of the feature film takes place aboard a PBR-type river patrol boat that travels along the Mekong River.

At the same time, in Vietnam, the American military also used less typical hovercraft with various weapons and equipment. One such hovercraft was the PACV SK-5 (Patrol Air Cushion Vehicle) patrol boat, which was used extensively in the riverine and wetlands of Vietnam from 1966 to 1970.

The large and clumsy hovercraft initially surprised the Viet Cong fighters. Representatives of the US Navy were no less surprised. True, there was a certain effect from the use of such vessels. No other ship could, at a speed of 70 miles per hour, overcome river jams from felled trees, cut down small trees and bushes and overturn local wooden flat-bottomed sampans.

Hovercraft PACV SK-5


The Patrol Air-Cushion Vehicle, or PACV for short, was based on the Bell Aerosystems SK-5 hovercraft. This unusual ship served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. It is worth noting that Vietnam for the United States in those years was an ideal testing ground, which made it possible to test a wide variety of military equipment and weapons in real conditions. It was in the Mekong Delta that the US military received the first and so far the only experience in the combat use of hovercraft.


Civilian version of the SR.N5 hovercraft

It is worth noting that the Americans were not pioneers in this matter. The first such ships were used in battles by the British military. It was Great Britain that was considered the pioneer in the West in the development of such technology. The British already had experience in the combat use of hovercraft against guerrillas in Malaya.

In 1965, based on this experience, the US Navy decided to purchase three SR.N5 ships from Great Britain. In the United States, the ships were to be licensed by Bell Aerosystems, which adapted the ships to the needs of the US Navy and modernized them by placing weapons on board. The resulting version of the hovercraft received in the American navy designation SK-5.

The design of the military versions of the licensed ships was fully completed already in 1966. The training of the first crews was carried out directly in the United States near the resort town of Coronado in the San Diego Bay and the surrounding area. In the same year, in May, these ships were first deployed in Vietnam. The US Navy used armed hovercraft to patrol the Mekong Delta and the river itself.

PACV SK-5s were widely used along estuaries and deltas, including on the high seas. And they were especially useful in swampy shallow water areas that were inaccessible to river patrol boats. At the same time, the crew of the hovercraft was often supplemented by American special forces or Vietnamese rangers from South Vietnam.

The green berets hovercraft were especially fond of, which in the early stages of combat missions in late 1966 achieved notable success through their use.

Speed, maneuverability and good firepower allowed the PACV SK-5 to solve a wide range of tasks. In addition to patrolling, they were used to search and destroy enemy groups, escort other ships, conduct reconnaissance, medical evacuation, transport heavy weapons and direct infantry fire support. An important advantage of the ships was that they could operate where ordinary boats could not pass and helicopters were not able to land.

Hovercraft in Vietnam. PACV SK-5
Army boat ACV 903 is being tested after construction

Hovercraft were actively used for ambushes and high-speed night operations. True, the cars were very noisy and they often did not have to count on surprise. Despite this, PACVs were effective during surprise attacks on Vietcong bases, managing to escape before the enemy organized serious resistance. It was also noted that the boats were most effective during combined arms operations involving helicopters, artillery and other vessels.

The performance characteristics of boats PACV SK-5


The PACV SK-5 hovercraft were quite sophisticated machines for their time. They were much larger than the standard PBR Mk.2 river patrol boats.

Soldiers of the South Vietnamese army gave the boats the call sign "monster". Around the same time, their noses were adorned with painted jaws, which were supposed to enhance the psychological effect of the use of unusual vessels.

The total displacement of the PACV SK-5 hovercraft was 7,1 tons. Maximum length - 11,84 meters, width - 7,24 meters, height (on a pillow) - 5 meters.

The crew of each boat consisted of four people: a driver, a radar operator, and two machine gunners. Additionally, each boat could take on board up to 12 military personnel with weapons, however, most of them would have to sit on the open deck.

The boat was driven by a General Electric 7LM100-PJ102 gas turbine engine, which could develop power up to 1100 hp. from. Engine power was sufficient to provide the hovercraft with a maximum speed of 60 knots (approximately 110 km / h). The stock of fuel tanks with a total volume of 1150 liters was enough to cover 165 nautical miles (approximately 306 km). The power reserve was approximately 7 hours.

The military version of the ship, designated Air Cushion Vehicles, was heavier and better armored. Since it was originally intended for assault operations, the armor and deck were reinforced. The total weight of the armor was 450 kg, which was comparable to the weight of the armor of the M113 armored personnel carrier.


At the same time, the transmission, engine and fuel tanks were covered with armor that could withstand a hit of 12,7 mm ammunition from a distance of 200 yards (approximately 180 meters).

The fighting compartment was weaker armored - kept hitting 7,62-mm bullets from a distance of 100 yards (90 meters). According to army recommendations, the armor around the fighting compartment was ordered to be removed to save weight, since it did not provide any special protection, especially against heavy weapons.

All PACV SK-5 hovercraft were armed.

The main armament of the ships was the installation of twin large-caliber 12,7-mm M2 Browning machine guns in a tower located on the roof of the conning tower. Auxiliary armament was represented by two 7,62 mm M60 machine guns on the starboard and port side. These machine guns were placed on helicopter-type installations. Also on some of the ships one could find 40-mm M75 automatic grenade launchers.

A feature of the PACV boats was the presence of a full-fledged radar, which made it possible to use them at night. Each vessel carried a Decca 202 radar with a dish antenna. This radar could detect targets at a distance of up to 39 km. For navigation in poor visibility and fog conditions, this was a significant advantage.

PACV SK-5 problems and the termination of their combat use


Hovercraft were used by the US Navy in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. Based on the results of this period, it was concluded that their operation was too expensive, and the ships were not reliable enough and required serious technical maintenance. For this reason, since 1970, they have been placed at the disposal of the US Coast Guard.

In total, only three naval PACVs and the same number of army ACVs were used in Vietnam over the years. At the same time, the army boats were represented by AACV assault vehicles (both lost in battles) and one transport vessel. Because of their speed, agility and ability to move confidently over rough terrain, they have often been compared to helicopters. But the problem was that this was true both for the cost and the complexity of their technological maintenance.


The operation of sophisticated equipment required very high qualifications from the crew and repairmen. It took up to 75-100 hours to train the crew, only after that it could be allowed to take part in combat operations. At the same time, a huge disadvantage of the PACV was that each hour of operation of the hovercraft then required 20 hours of maintenance, which is comparable to the values ​​for the C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft.

Unsurprisingly, all three naval PACV SK-5s rarely found themselves in combat readiness at the same time. The operational readiness of the hovercraft was typically just over 55 percent. If the boats were damaged in battle, the period of their maintenance only increased.

Over time, the Viet Cong learned to deal effectively with this military equipment, using ambushes and sea mines. It was the mines that turned out to be truly effective weapons against PACV. At the same time, the loss of even one hovercraft turned out to be a huge expense for the budget.

The ships cost one million dollars. This amount would be enough to buy 13 PBR river patrol boats.

Over time, the lack of armament of the PACV was also attributed to the disadvantages. The capabilities of large-caliber machine guns were not enough to deal with armored targets and fortified firing points.

The military offered to expand the armament, supplementing it with 20-mm automatic cannons (the possibility of installing a six-barreled M61 Vulcan cannon was also considered), a TOW ATGM or a 106-mm M40 recoilless gun.

However, these wishes were not implemented.

And in the end it was decided to transfer the ships to the coast guard, curtailing their combat operation.
Author:
14 comments
Information
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Thrifty
    Thrifty 4 March 2021 04: 53
    +7
    Sergei hi - as always informative, albeit short! For the article you + and thank you hi !!!
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka 4 March 2021 05: 10
      +2
      An interesting "toy" I have never read about it before! Thank!
      Regards, Kote!
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 4 March 2021 08: 33
        +1
        Funny "tadpole". Personally, the top photo reminded me of it!)))
      2. Mister X
        Mister X 4 March 2021 09: 12
        +1
        Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
        Interesting "toy"

        hi
        Interesting moment

        The training of the first crews was carried out directly in the United States near the resort town of Coronado in the San Diego Bay and the surrounding area.
        Author: Yuferev Sergey

        The eponymous naval base of the Navy is located in Coronado (California, USA).
        Many units are stationed on its territory, including the amphibious base, and the 1st separate SEAL regiment.

        The base is notable for the complex of buildings that serves as a barracks for the Marine Bees Engineer Battalion.
        It consists of 4 L-shaped buildings built in the late 60s.
        Project author: local architect John Mock
        From a bird's eye view, the barracks of the Sea Bees resemble a swastika.
        1. Intruder
          Intruder 26 May 2021 07: 57
          -1
          From a bird's eye view, the barracks of the Sea Bees resemble a swastika.
          strange vision - of this solar sign! wink
          Whoever does not use it, for thousands of years, from end to end of this world ... yes
  2. WHAT IS
    WHAT IS 4 March 2021 05: 31
    +11
    Hovercraft were used by the US Navy in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970.

    Well, Duc! The golden age of SVP! Then there were magazines entirely devoted to high-speed ships. Inspired by success, scientists working with SVPs were going to "give heat" to traditional shipbuilding, but the success came the practice, which made it clear that the scope of use of an air cushion is very limited. there are still a lot of unresolved problems - the ship does not come into contact with a solid surface, it is poorly controlled, therefore it moves by inertia in a straight line even with the rudders turned in. This type of ship does not have reliable brakes - you can stop the ship only by turning off or turning on the reverse propellers (changing the angle of attack The same flexible fence is also a vulnerable point - when hitting the edge of ice or other hard and sharp obstacles, it cuts like paper, its resource is small. In addition, water dust, and also salty in the sea, is a danger to the screws, injecting air under the bottom and especially for the engine. However, where there is no other alternative, according to the combination of various parameters "air earhods "have no worthy rivals.
  3. Dante Alighieri
    Dante Alighieri 4 March 2021 05: 47
    +7
    The article is great, but the following confused me a bit:
    It is worth noting that Vietnam for the United States in those years was an ideal testing ground, which made it possible to test a wide variety of military equipment and weapons in real conditions.


    And without the firing of the adversary at the tested equipment, the range is therefore not ideal? Or should the optional targets return fire at the "testers" shooting at them, besides, they should lead it efficiently, so that without first sprinkling the blood of the machine, it would be impossible to produce a series? No.

    PS: I understand that real operation and engineering calculations are different things, but who prevents from thoroughly finding out all the pros and cons of their "native" test sites under conditionally controlled fire? It is imperative that another miracle of technical thought be shoved there (be it Vietnam or Syria) where it is guaranteed to be taken apart for souvenirs by local aborigines, and besides, together with their heads, this miracle of technology came up with? For the life of me, I don’t understand it.

    Moreover, let's say we found out (not in relation to hovercraft, but in general) that in the conditions of local warriors some kind of pepelats turned out to be a very successful solution. However, tomorrow (not God, of course) hostilities began with the participation of regular armies up to the local use of nuclear weapons. And suddenly it turned out that what worked well in the confrontation with undemocratic elements, in the fight against real "world evil" (for example, with aliens, robots or communists, or maybe even three in one: aliens with communist robots) turned out to be inapplicable. For example, due to excess armor, such products turned out to be inactive, do not have time to march behind the main forces, and attempts to install a more powerful engine affect fuel consumption, which again reduces the driving range on the march. Or even more bonal: the industry does not have time to rivet the required number of units in exchange for the discharged ones, because the manufacturing technology of the product is rather complicated and does not allow to put the product on the stream. In such conditions, any modern analogue of the T-34 will turn out to be much more preferable, which has repeatedly proven itself in battles with the natives and has no analogues wunderwafe.

    - this is purely my opinion, which I do not impose on anyone.
    1. alstr
      alstr 4 March 2021 12: 17
      0
      Well, how they test new weapons can be seen in one feature film "Pentagon Wars".
      But even if there is no fraud, there are nuances that are fashionable to find out only in the process of intensive and even extreme exploitation.
    2. LastPS
      LastPS 6 March 2021 15: 55
      0
      And without the firing of the adversary at the tested equipment, the range is therefore not ideal? Or should the optional targets return fire at the "testers" shooting at them, besides, they should lead it efficiently, so that without first sprinkling the blood of the machine, it would be impossible to produce a series? no

      PS: I understand that real operation and engineering calculations are different things, but who prevents from thoroughly finding out all the pros and cons of their "native" test sites under conditionally controlled fire? It is imperative that another miracle of technical thought be shoved there (be it Vietnam or Syria) where it is guaranteed to be taken apart for souvenirs by local aborigines, and besides, together with their heads, this miracle of technology came up with? For the life of me, I don’t understand it.


      Many moments cannot be modeled. Something turns out to be not as convenient as the engineers expect, some compromises turn out to be too critical, than it was conceived in theory, especially for new types of weapons, but something generally pops up unexpectedly. Battle check is unbiased, but polygons are not particularly.

      Moreover, let's say we found out (not in relation to hovercraft, but in general) that in the conditions of local warriors some kind of pepelats turned out to be a very successful solution. However, tomorrow (not God, of course) hostilities began with the participation of regular armies up to the local use of nuclear weapons.


      Naturally, it is not realistic to foresee everything, which is why, for example, Soviet infantry fighting vehicles were not very successful, because they were intended for a nuclear conflict (and taking into account the relief of a particular area, a certain technological level of the enemy and the estimated life of such equipment on the battlefield), and do not drive terrorists. Engineers are not stupid guys, there is a certain technical specification for a car, which it must comply with, up to what kind of machine park should be for its production, well, if a situation arises in which something needs to be simplified, the T-34 is an excellent example of such innovation ...
  4. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 4 March 2021 06: 11
    +4
    The total weight of the armor was 450 kg, which was comparable to the weight of the armor of the M113 armored personnel carrier.
    I apologize, of course, but with the M113 weighing 10 TONS, it's strange that 450 kg is considered comparable armor.
  5. The comment was deleted.
  6. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 4 March 2021 08: 36
    +3
    An interesting note, but there is no information about combat use. Basically - about the difficulties of operation. It is clear that the Americans will not write about this especially, maybe the Vietnamese have something?
    1. LastPS
      LastPS 6 March 2021 15: 57
      +1
      I do not know if it is possible to upload videos from YouTube to VO, in the sense that it will not be considered an advertisement, but here.
      1. Aviator_
        Aviator_ 6 March 2021 18: 11
        0
        Thank you, it is very stretched and again 90% about the difficulties of operation, but there is still a little about combat use. The Vietnamese drew conclusions from the first battles, and the last two vehicles were seriously damaged by mines, I believe, it was not without our advisers.
  7. stoqn477
    stoqn477 4 March 2021 19: 33
    0
    The capabilities of large-caliber machine guns were not enough to deal with armored targets and fortified firing points.

    What armored targets the boat is facing, I'm curious?