Pictures and Comments from Jeffry Fontaine[ Jeffry has been collecting material as a PTF enthusiast and a modeler. Stay tuned for the next installment and an incredible contribution to these pages we will reveal . Check out his photo and new TGYC logo. I will adapt that next release.]
My involvement with the Nasty PTF has been a labor of love ever since I first saw a picture of one and after reading into the history and operational use of the small combatants in the Vietnam conflict, I was even more impressed. I also have a friend of mine that served on these boats during a tour in Vietnam and he sort of fueled the flames of interest even more for me to try and obtain as much information as possible on this particular boat class. I thought I was the source of all knowledge when it came to the Nasty boats and had thought about attempting a web page on the subject, however Dan Withers pulled the rug out from under me with his handiwork and why duplicate something as amazing as that, when I can contribute to it and make it better.
As for my own military background, I am an Army veteran, formerly an intelligence analyst that specialized in aerial photography and satellite imagery, I was unfortunately discharged prior to being eligible for retirement because of my weight. I spent a total of 16 1/2 years in uniform and thirteen of those were in the intelligence business.
Your comments on the Osprey hull are similar to what I have read in other reports about the hard ride, I have to agree on that but from a maintenance point of view, I have to continue to support the aluminum hull construction as cheaper and more cost effective alternative since it is lighter in weight, easier to repair, and will not absorb water which is the one real problem with wood hull construction. As a wood hull boat absorbs water, it increases the all up weight of the hull and reduces its performance significantly. I checked the Swiftships page on military vessels and you are right, most of them are just barely achieving 30 knots, I am sure that they could come up with something a bit faster, if they were asked to. Some of the designs they are offering are in use now as high speed transports for the oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and they are quite fast for there size. I am quite positive that the right engine to hull package could be created to give you a 50+knot PTF type boat with an aluminum hull and a decent range to perform you barrier patrol mission. If the power plants are not available in the US, there is always Mercedes Benz diesels which are quite efficient and produce the right amount of horsepower.
I am also in favor of the water jet propulsion system since running in shallow coastal waters always brings with it the increased chance of striking a floating or submerged object with the propeller or rudders and a with the water jet pumps you do not have that vulnerability, they are however susceptible to ingesting debris, but are easily cleaned out and returned to operation. Where a similar problem with a propeller, shaft and rudder arrangement, once it is out of alignment, the vibrations can shake additional fixtures loose and turn a simple repair job into an extended stay on the beach.
As for the radar signature of a metal hull, it is almost a non-issue, if you are in and amongst small islands your small combatants will blend in quite well. If you are hauling ass on the open ocean, well that is a different story and it will not matter what material your vessel is made out of since the wake from your boat will cause a significant radar return. You have to take some and give some on this one. The higher speeds and lighter weight achieved with an aluminum hull will allow you to achieve greater distances and carry a larger payload over the same size hull constructed of wood. the reduced radar return from the Nasty class was achieved more by the low silhouette than by the fact that it was made of wood. There are far too many radar corner reflectors on the boat to really say that it was invisible. Radar is a line of site device and once you are out of the line of sight on the system, you are invisible. Granted the higher up the mast the antenna is placed, the greater the range and you cannot escape the airborne surveillance system either. If you want to really be invisible, then you need to be in a submarine, and that is what you are trying to prevent the government from acquiring. So you have to accept some radar return as a trade off on you small combatants.
Anti-ship missiles, you are correct, they are becoming much smaller. The U.S.Navy did test fire the Norwegian Penguin ASM's on a 65 foot patrol boat and there is still the capability to carry several of these weapons with out a significant increase in weight or additional targeting electronics. The problem I have with missiles is that they produce one hell of a visual signature when launched, especially visible at night, this can bring additional unwanted attention to you and your vessel which is not good especially when you wanting to remain unseen.
I have a couple of the 1/72nd scale model kits of the Vosper Thornycroft Brave series patrol boat and I find it to be a remarkable hull form, it would be ideal with a few modifications to upgrade it to present standards for propulsion and electronics. Though I find the use of three turbine engines to be overkill and a real waste of fuel, if there are sufficiently sized diesel engines with similar power output to the Deltics available that would fit the hull space, I would recommend a complete change over to three of those with the accompanying diesel generator sets in an arrangement similar to the Osprey. Or go to a single gas turbine with two diesel powerplant arrangement in an arrangement similar to the Asheville class PG's, there might be enough space to fit something like that but you again are going to trade fuel and range for speed.
One of my favorite small combatants is the Asheville class Patrol Gunboats, these were relatively fast ships, with limited endurance and a shallow draft for inshore operations, they were also large enough to carry an automatic 76mm gun, which could be upgraded to an Oto-Melera 76/62 compact for even better performance. I look at the PG as a trade off between a larger ship and the smaller PTF's, it is relatively cheap to operate and maintain, the combined gas turbine/diesel main propulsion system could be improved upon with newer technology and you would still have a reasonable sized surface ship that could perform the mission you are describing. With some modifications to the stern section, a small boat ramp similar to the Cyclone class PC could be incorporated into the hull and this would provide the capability to launch and recover small special operatons units. The 76mm main gun could deal with air and surface threats and there is still enough room onboard for additional weapon systems and equipment. A ship of similar capability might be what you are looking for to fill the "Corvette" mission. A redesign of the superstructure to reduce the overall height and make better use of the available space would improve the sea keeping problems that these vessels encountered because of being a bit top heavy. There is enough room on board to provide for additional passengers and cargo to accomplish small insertion missions up river or on the beach.
Well I have rambled on quite enough for one night, looking forward to hearing your responses.
There is another fellow up in the Orcas Islands that has a photo-etch parts business that manufactures after market products for model builders, he is a former Navy type and he has a web page at http://goldmm.com/ check it out.
Anyway it is a rather polite mailing list, unlike some of the other on-line newsgroups which I subscribe to which can become very heated with mudslinging and name calling between the subscribers. I usually ignore that type of stuff, but some of it can be very entertaining.
My friend Brad Gehring (a former Nasty boat skipper) told me that there was now a webpage on the NASTY Class on-line, I was surprised and could not wait to see it for myself. I have been a fan of the NASTY Boats for a number of years, since the first time I saw a picture of one.
I personally would like to see one of those Nasty boats berthed in Bremerton next to the USS Turner Joy since history indicates that the Nasty boats crewed by personnel of the South Vietnamese Navy were indirectly responsible for the North Vietnamese attack on the USS Maddox.
It would be nice to be able to afford one of these boats for my own use and enjoyment. I keep thinking about the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival where I would get a bit of perverse satisfaction in knowing I was annoying the local populace with the presence of a small surface combatant painted up in a nice shade of green and mounting some very threatening "demilled" weapons. Those ready service ammunition lockers would make great ice chests for keeping the beer chilled!