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When the US Air Force had a Navy!

This is my rendition of the old (and I do mean OLD) Lindberg Models 1950’s era USAF air/sea rescue boat. I built a similar model as a youngster and couldn’t figure why it didn’t include torpedo tubes like my Revell PT boat. It was a mystery to my young mind why the Air Force would even have a boat let alone a PT boat.

I picked this current kit up at a yard sale, in the old Lindberg box, half built (with glue from the 1950’s). What ever kid slapped the hull together made the same mistake I did back in the day.. The hull comes in four pieces and if not properly aligned the model is doomed to the “unfinished shelf” as the stern and deck will not “mesh” together. I finished my model anyway but if I recall it became a victim of a fire cracker one summer holiday.

On this glue bomb I gently seperated the hull and cracked one side in half in the process.I was able to properly correct the hull and after some Evergreen products and body filler were applied the hull was “fixed”. Doing a little research I was able to learn that the models’ 20mm guns were incorrect and I used some quad fifties from a 1:72 half track to correct this. I made a lot of changes to the boat many of them scratch built. The neatest thing is the paint job. In overseas deployment the boats were to be painted in a naval gray. But the boats in state side service were painted in the white-red/orange-traffic yellow scheme. I used Tamiya rattle can paint for the bulk of the model and airbrushed everything else.

About the boat’s history…the USAAC in WWII operated a variety of crash boats whose mission was rescueing downed air crews. The most numerous were the 63′ craft and after the war they were retained at air bases near the water. In peacetime the boats were unarmed and in “Hi Viz” paint. The guns were added for protection against “unfriendlies” during a SAR operation (think North Korea). In the early 1950’s the USAF was looking for a standard, long legged boat, one that had all the desirable qualities of a crash boat. Turning to the USCG and the USN design teams, two 94′ boats was built as experimental craft. But the USAF wanted as much “off the shelf” gear incorporated in the boat as possible. Powered by 3 surplus Packard Merlin engines the boat could attain 36 knots. Other items in the Air Force inventory were 50cal MG and radio gear from aircraft. But with the advent of all weather reliable helicopters, the 94′ SAR boat was doomed from the start. With WWII engines, non marine grade electronics, and other teething problems it eventually killed the program.

I’m not sure why Lindberg went with the 94′ boat as a model, a kit of the 63′ boat would have been a better choice. Oh well, blame it on the 1950’s when anything in plastic was possible…

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.


14 responses to When the US Air Force had a Navy!

  1. Wow…very eye-catching. And a nice “save”, Mike. I like it. Nice work!

    • My dad was a crash boat skipper in Korea and retired at Tyndall in 1967 as a crash boat skipper. Beautiful job on your experimental 94’ footer! I wish that model manufacturers would pay more attention to these boats. I have volumes of information, along with photos. These crews were treated like wicked, red headed step children by the Air Force. The only recognition is tucked away in the corner of one of the buildings at the Air Force Museum and that being donated by members of those crews.
      There were two boats built, with one becoming inoperable within a year, or so. The other still exists in the northeast somewhere as a yacht. The late Doug Tretter, who served with my dad, rebuilt an 85’ footer and restored it to it’s former glory in California. There is a site; AAF/USAF Crash Boat Association if anyone is interested in knowing more about these men and boats.
      Thanks for listening to an old sea going F-4 Tech!

      • Robert
        Thanks for the comments.
        I was stationed with a man that was attached to the ASR program in Virginia and he mentioned that the boat crews were treated poorly by other Air Force personnel especially since they wore navy uniforms with USAF rocker strips on their sleeves. The 63′ ASR boats were very prolific in numbers, they were operated by the USAF, USN and USCG as crash boats. I went aboard one at Quonset Point Naval Air Station as a child, the navy used them right up to the late 1950’s. It’s a shame no model manufacturer offered a model of the 63′ boat, they could be displayed in a variety of paint schemes and deck arrangements.

        3 attached images. Click to enlarge.

      • I remember Bishop very well – at Fukuoka Japan – (Itazuke Air Base) 1952 – He was with the 22nd operating off N. Korean coast. I was with the 136th FB at K2 and flying base flight (C-47). Radio operator – Got in fight with bunch of the 22nd CRB and Fisher broke my nose.. Nothing serious just a cabaret bawl downton Fukuoka. Lt Col Les Adams was commander of the 22nd Next was with Bishop at Tyndall in 1957-58. Was radio operator on R37A-1362 for year and half. I think Bishop was crew on R-37A-1280 skippered by a Msgt named Smith. Mr. Montgomerery (A CWO) was commander. Rudy Hofstetter was NCOIC .We had seven R-37A boats. (63 footers). My skipper was Harvey Bergeron – John Hagans was his first. Louis Pratt was engineer,and I was radio operator. Left Tyndall in November 1958. Have been to several reunions of the CRB. in Charleston and Ft Walton Beach. I have a picture of 85 footer drawn by Tretter- he was an excellent artist. That picture of the model of the 1362 is way off – that isn’t an R-37A – might be an 85 footer. I mention the fight we had downtown Fukuoka- and Bishop in particular in book titled: Carolina Roots – From Whence I Came – available on Amazon. My email is [email protected]. Address: 187 Huffman Rd . Blacksburg, SC 29702

  2. I like the colors ofthe Boat.

  3. Pretty cool looking boat. I bet it sounded nice running out on those Merlins. The colors sure don’t seem very Navy but I do like them.

  4. That is gorgeous !

  5. Mike……I REALLY like that boat. I had never heard of them before.

  6. That’s the most impressive rescue boat I’ve seen!

  7. You’ve made a lovely job of this, Mike, It would be interesting to hear the original builder’s comments on it. I seem to remember the RAF had its own air/sea rescue launches, I’m not sure if anyone made of a kit of them though.

  8. Very nice re-creation, Mike! Nice job with the ‘clown’ colors, as that is how the boat would have been painted (but I’m sure you knew that). Great detail all around!

  9. Used to ride one of these 85 foot rescue boats out to Matagorda Island off the coast of Texas. It was quite a thrill as I had always had a fondness for PT boats and the minute I saw her riding at the dock, I recognized the heritage in her lines. I remember that one as having a flush deck, but it might have had a stepped deck and it had no armament. It did have the red/orange superstructure, but the decks were gray. I suppose no bright deck colors were necessary for a relay vessel.

    The steady rumble of the three Packards was loud and sustained. I kept waiting for the skipper to open up the throttles, but it was a stately 20 knot run in and out. The run in at sunset was quite something. If one squinted hard, they could almost see the Japanese navy lurking out there in the Gulf of Mexico.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  10. The R-37A-1362 was powered by twin 630 HP Hall Scott engines. (Some had Packard engines) Two fuel tanks topped off at 650 gallons each. Aviation grade fuel (blue gas). We could run at cruise speed for about 12 hours before having to refuel. We burned a lot of fuel running compass courses and standby duty for SA-16 touch and go water landings. The boats at Tyndall were converted to “Drone Recovery” missions in support of “Project William Tell” (First worldwide air-to air competition) in Sept- Oct 1958. Ryan Firebee drones were launched from underneath the wing of a converted B-26 – After launch (downwind leg of the track) control of the drone was picked up at radar site at Appalachicola. We had four R-37A boats on station from near Ft. Walton Beach to near Tampa – All on the hot leg to recover drones downed by the fighter jocks.. Had to leave the docks at Carrabelle, Fla. at 3 am – run straight out for four hours (at around 25 knots). That put us on station near 100 miles out in the gulf. We never lost a drone. The wing pod on the drone had a camera recording the incoming missile (programmed for near miss). An automatic opening red and white parachute at 15,000 feet gave us time to be right under the splashdown. On drone recovery missions we carried a diver who hooked up the floating drone – brought it aboard and returned it to Appalachicola. Good Duty

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