Weird but Cool: How the Navy Used Crazy Hydrofoil Warships During the Vietnam War

Warfare History Network

Hydrofoil boat technology was first tested during Operation Market Time in the Vietnam War. This technology, invented in the early 1900s, had never been applied to combat vessels until the U.S. Navy (USN) deployed two preliminary hydrofoil models during Vietnam. The success of the newly developed hydrofoils USS Tucumcari and USS Flagstaff elongated USN investments in hydrofoil technology.

Having heavily researched hydrofoil technology since the late 1950s, the Navy produced two propulsion platforms by the beginning of the Vietnam War. Either propellers or water jets were attached to hydrofoil struts, which lifted the ship’s hull out of the water to decrease drag, therefore increasing speed and maneuverability in all weather conditions. This technology would prove invaluable in future missions.

Operation Market Time

Operation Market Time separated the coast of South Vietnam into nine patrol areas in an attempt to blockade enemy weapons and troops from entering the country via sea. Though naval minesweepers and destroyers spent time patrolling costal waters encompassed by Operation Market Time, U.S. Navy Patrol Crafts Fast (PCF), or swift boats undertook the majority of the patrolling and boarding operations. Because of the success of PCFs had in costal waters where larger fleet ships could not operate, the USN decided to test the USS Tucumcari and the USS Flagstaff in this combat environment. From 1968-1970, the two hydrofoils were evaluated for their combat efficiency. Exceeding speeds of over 40 knots in all weather conditions, Tucumcari and Flagstaff proved ideal for the boarding and blockading operations called for in Operation Market Time.

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