Jump to content

USN Hydrofoils, Ships That Fly PCH AGEH PGH PHM

Recommended Posts

Aloha Everyone,


From the 1960's and into the 1990's the US Navy experimented with Hydrofoil technology creating prototypes and operational "Ships That Fly". Beginning with the USS HIGHPOINT in 1962, followed by the Grumman built USS FLAGSTAFF and Boeing built USS TUCUMCARI which were both extensively field tested in Vietnam and with NATO forces in Europe, and finally the huge Grumman/Lockheed built USS PLAINVIEW.


These vessels would “fly” above the sea, with water flowing over submerged foils like air flowing over airplane wings. The hydrofoil depended on forward speed to generate lift on its underwater wings, much like an airplane flying through the air. Hydrofoil patrol boats had several advantages over traditional hulls. The underwater wings lifted the hull out of the water, reducing drag. Hydrofoil boats’ small submerged area reduced risk of torpedo attacks. The underwater wings increased stability, enabling hydrofoils to maneuver in rough water


This USN video is a great overview of these four initial hydrofoils commissioned by the USN. After these extensive tests were completed, the six PEGASUS class PHM's were built by Boeing in the 1970's for service with the Fleet




Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 51
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

USS High Point (PCH 1), the U.S. Navy’s first operational hydrofoil, was launched in 1962. Operating from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, she underwent testing at speeds of more than 50 knots.

It was hoped that hydrofoils like High Point would join the fleet as antisubmarine warfare vessels. However, testing revealed that the hydrofoil technology was not yet advanced enough to produce a reliable hydrofoil to join the fleet, and more research was needed. Still, much was learned through these tests. In 1975, High Point was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard for evaluation as a coastal patrol vessel.



Link to post
Share on other sites

USS FLAGSTAFF (PGH-1) Flagstaff class patrol gunboat (hydrofoil) built by Grumman Aerospace and commissioned in 1968. She was deployed to South Vietnam with Tucumcari. The two ships formed Coastal Squadron 3, and were based in Cam Ranh Bay conducting patrol missions there until 1970. Flagstaff and Tucumcari were too mechanically complex for the repair facilities in Vietnam, and as a result were ultimately withdrawn from combat.


She is shown here in 1974 along with the experimental coastal patrol and interdiction craft at center, and the Osprey class fast patrol boat PTF-23, underway off the coast of southern California


Flagstaff was also loaned to the USCG for evaluation purposes from 1974 to 1978 but was returned to the Navy due to 'disappointing results' and high maintenance costs.



Link to post
Share on other sites

USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2) Built by Boeing, she was also in a class of her own, commissioned in 1968 and evaluated in Vietnam. Both she and FLAGSTAFF were transported to South East Asia as deck cargo aboard the Gunston Hall. After this short service, she was transported to the Atlantic Fleet and began testing with NATO forces in Europe. Tucumcari was the basis for the technology later used in the Pegasus PHM hydrofoils.



Link to post
Share on other sites

USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2) Patrol Gunboat Hydrofoil - In service 1968 to 1972 - Vietnam - NATO


Designed by Boeing, she was the first weapon-equipped military hydrofoil. The heavily-armed “TUC” was launched in 1967. She measured 71’ long, and carried a 40mm cannon, four .50 caliber machine guns, and an 81mm mortar.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately the USS TUCUMCARI came to an abrupt end after less than five years service.....


On 16 November 1972, Tucumcari suffered a serious accident. While participating in simulated combat operations with other amphibious forces off Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, she unexpectedly ran aground. Hitting a coral reef at 40+ knots, Tucumcari was stopped dead within the length of her hull, forcing the front strut aft and shearing off the port and starboard foils. Several crewmen were injured and two crewmen had to be air lifted by helicopter from the grounded vessel. Fortunately, all the crewmen recovered from their injuries.
The fate of Tucumcari was sealed during salvage operations. While attempting to blast the boat free from the coral reef using explosives, further damage was incurred. The damage was so severe that it was deemed uneconomical to repair, and Tucumcari was, accordingly, struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 7 November 1973. Subsequently transferred to the Naval Ship and Research Development Center at Annapolis, Maryland, she was used as a test hulk for structural evaluation and fire containment tests into the mid-1970s. She was finally scrapped in 1973.
Tucumcari logged over 1500 "flying" hours during its brief service. The waterjet propulsion proved highly reliable, compared to the propeller drive propulsion of Flagstaff (PGH-1), and waterjet propulsion was later used for the Pegasus-class hydrofoil vessels.


PGH 2 USS TUCUMCARI  Grounded 001b.jpg

PGH 2 USS TUCUMCARI  Grounded 002.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
USS PLAINVIEW (AGEH 1) was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company and operated out of the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard from her 1969 commissioning until 1978. At 220’, she was the world’s largest military hydrofoil. She tested the feasibility of large hydrofoil craft operations at sea. Plainview was used to show the effectiveness of hydrofoils in accomplishing Navy missions like launching torpedoes, firing missiles, and underway replenishment.

USS Plainview reminded many crew members of an airplane, with her aluminum construction and Lockheed jet aircraft engines. Her bridge was often compared to an airplane cockpit because of the many dials and gauges.




Link to post
Share on other sites
USS Pegasus and the Navy’s PHM Program
After the success of USS Tucumcari, the Navy asked Boeing to produce a larger armed hydrofoil. The PHM (Patrol Hydrofoil Missile) program consisted of six hydrofoil patrol boats. At 132 feet, they were nearly twice as long as Tucumcari. Heavily armed for their size, with a 76mm rapid-fire gun and eight Harpoon missiles, PHM boats could challenge much larger warships.
Launched by Boeing between 1974 and 1982, all six Pegasus class hydrofoils were assigned to patrol the waters around Key West, Florida to combat drug trafficking. With speeds in excess of 40 knots in any weather, they were the only U.S. ships that could outrun the speedy boats used by smugglers.
The patch depicted on the cover below is the Swiss Tex design made in the mid 1970's
1 May 1984 USS PEGASUS (PHM-1), in the foreground and the USS ARIES (PHM 5), are shown underway hullborne, with the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 46) in the background.
U. S. Navy photo DN-SC-86-04785 by PHAA Alan Elliott




PHM 1 USS PEGASUS 005a.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

USS HERCULES (PHM-2) Pegasus class Patrol Combatant Missile (Hydrofoil) in service 1982 to 1993


1st photo: Hercules off of her home port of Key West, Florida 1980's


2nd photo: 21 June 1987 Off Key West, FL

A port bow view of the patrol combatant-missile (hydrofoil) Hercules underway alongside the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during an underway replenishment.
Defense Visual Information photo DN-SC-87-08236 by CWO Wilkerson




Link to post
Share on other sites
USS Taurus (PHM-3) was the third ship of her class of hydrofoils operated by the United States Navy. Pegasus class vessels were designed for high speed and mobility, and carried a powerful (for their size) armament. The ship was named for the constellation Taurus.

In November 1972, The United States, Germany and Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share the cost of the development of a Patrol Missile Hydrofoil. This brought about the building of the Pegasus class . The Taurus was the first production model

PHM 3 USS TAURUS 004.jpg

PHM 3 USS TAURUS 003.jpg

PHM 3 USS TAURUS 006a.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

USS AQUILA (PHM-4) Pegasus class Patrol Combatant Missile (Hydrofoil) in service 1982 to 1993. Photo from my collection with rocker and hat patch


1 June 1984 The patrol combatant missile hydrofoil Aquila lies tied up at a wharf during Exercise UNITAS XXV. The USCGC Courageous (WMEC 622) is in the background
Defense Visual Information photo DN-ST-90-01294 by JOCS Kirby Harrison

PHM 4 USS AQUILA 001.jpg

PHM 4 USS AQUILA 004.jpg

PHM 4 USS AQUILA 006.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

USS AQUILA (PHM-4) Pegasus class Patrol Combatant Missile (Hydrofoil) in service 1982 to 1993. Note the PHMRON TWO shield on her hull in the photo.


1 September 1982 A view of the Aquila equipped with eight harpoon surface-to-surface cruise missiles. She is shown on a foilborne high speed run of approximately 40-knots.

U.S. Navy photos DN-ST-82-10870 and DN-ST-82-10871
1 June 1984 Sailors man the rail in front of the 76 mm Mark 75 anti-aircraft gun on the patrol combatant missile hydrofoil Aquila.
Defense Visual Information photo DN-ST-90-01295 by JOCS Kirby Harrison


PHM 4 USS AQUILA 005.jpg

PHM 4 USS AQUILA 007.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.