Drug runners beware. We sail on air.
There is a very special fleet of ships anchored in Key West, Florida, ready to chase and capture drug runners. The ships are hydrofoils. When a hydrofoil gets underway, it drops wings below it into the water, and those wings lift the ship up into the air. The reduced drag allows the ship to go at amazing speeds - fast enough to catch any drug runners out there.
These ships are known to the U.S. Navy as the PEGASUS CLASS of ships. The six PHMs of the Pegasus class form a single squadron which operate from Key West. They are the Navy's fastest ships when foilborne (over 60 mph) and driven by their single gas turbine engine. They have good range on their diesels, excellent seakeeping qualities, amazingly fast response to requirements for speed, and a potent punch. Since becoming operational, they have established an unusually high availability rate while participating in a variety of missions, including significant involvement in the national drug interdiction program.
The ships in port.
In the picture above, you can see that each ship is well equipted with radar for finding targets, with large gun implacements, and (not visible in the picture), a multiple rocket launcher platform. The shape you see at the near end of the ship is the wing which is lowered into the water in order to go "foilborne".
The ships also have armour-plating which can be drawn up over their windshields in order to protect from gunfire and water. The protection from water comes in handy when, in some cases, their prey will not stop, so they have to increase to top speed, and as they come up behind their prey, they drop the front wing, dive completely under the water and come up underneath the escaping boat, lifting it out of the water or capsizing it.
The six ships are named after constellations. They are: the USS Pegasus, the USS Hercules, the USS Taurus, the USS Aquila, the USS Aries and the USS Gemini.
Successful mission board
Above you see the side of the USS Pegasus with its board of successful missions. And yes, that svelt and handsome man who was there on drug-interdiction duty, standing there in his plain-clothes uniform is me.
Now, for a little feedback for the advanced viewers:
PEGASUS CLASS (PHM-1)
Displacement: 255 tons full load
Length: Foils extended, 133 feet; foils retracted, 145 feet
Beam: 28 feet
Speed: Foilborne, in excess of 40 knots; hullborne, 12 knots
Power Plant: Foilborne, one gas turbine, 18,000 shaft horsepower, waterjet propulsion units; hullborne, two diesels, 1,600 brake horsepower, waterjet propulsion units
Aircraft: Cannot carry aircraft.
Armament: Eight Harpoon missiles; one 76mm gun
Builder: Boeing Marine Systems
If you would like more information about the Pegasus class hydrofoils used by the U.S. Navy for drug interdiction in the Carribean, take a look at the following sites:
Ibiblio.org for details of the ships
NavySite.de for historical information.
Foils.org for design features and schematics
FAS.org for more schematics and diagrams.