Military Wiki
Patrol Boat, River
Patrol Boat Rigid MarkII.jpg
Class overview
Name: PBR (Patrol Boat Riverine)
Operators:  United States Navy
Preserved: 1 operational
General characteristics
Type: riverine patrol boat
Displacement: 8.9 ton for Mk II
Length: 31 ft (9.4 m) (Mk I)
32 ft (9.8 m) (Mk II)
Beam: 10.5 ft (3.2 m) (MK I)
11.5 ft (3.5 m) (MK II)
Draft: 2 ft (0.61 m)
Propulsion: 2 × 220 hp (164 kW) Detroit Diesel 6V53N engines each driving a Jacuzzi Brothers water pump-jet with thrust buckets for reverse thrust.
Speed: 28.5 knots (53 km/h 32 mph).
Complement: 4 enlisted
Armament: 1 × twin M2HB .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns (forward in a rotating tub)
1 × single M2HB (rear)
1 or 2 × M60 7.62 mm machine gun(s) (side-mounted)
1 × 40 mm Mk 19 grenade launcher
Armor: Ceramic armor shields fitted to guns, bridge. Also crew-applied ballistic blankets to protect the coxswain in the control cockpit.


PBR Mark II forward .50 caliber M2 machine guns

Patrol Boat, River or PBR, is the United States Navy designation for a small rigid-hulled patrol boat used in the Vietnam War from March 1966 until the end of 1971. They were deployed in a force that grew to 250 boats, the most common craft in the River Patrol Force, Task Force 116, and were used to stop and search river traffic in areas such as the Mekong Delta, the Rung Sat Special Zone, the Saigon River and in I Corps, in the area assigned to Task Force Clearwater, in an attempt to disrupt weapons shipments. In this role they frequently became involved in firefights with enemy soldiers on boats and on the shore, were used to insert and extract Navy SEAL teams, and were employed by the United States Army's 458th Transportation Company, known as the 458th Seatigers.[1]


The PBR was a versatile boat with a fiberglass hull and water jet drive which enabled it to operate in shallow, weed-choked rivers. It drew only two feet of water fully loaded. The drives could be pivoted to reverse direction, turn the boat in its own length, or come to a stop from full speed in a few boat lengths.

The PBR was manufactured in two versions, the first with 31 foot length and 10 foot, 7 inch beam. The Mark II version 32 feet (9.8 m) long and one foot wider beam had improved drives to reduce fouling and aluminum gunwales to resist wear.


The PBR was usually manned by a 4-man crew. Typically, a First Class Petty Officer served as boat captain, with a gunner's mate, an engineman and a seaman on board. Each crewman was cross-trained in each other's job in the event one became unable to carry out his duties. Generally, PBRs operated in pairs under the command of a patrol officer who rode on one of the boats.


The boats were powered by dual 220 hp (164 kW) Detroit Diesel 6V53N engines with Jacuzzi Brothers pump-jet drives. The boats reached top speeds of 28.5 knots (53 km/h 32 mph.


Typical armament configuration included twin M2HB .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns forward in a rotating shielded tub, a single rear .50 cal, M60 7.62mm light machine guns mounted on the port and starboard sides, and a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher. There was also a full complement of M16 rifles, shotguns, .45 ACP handguns, and hand grenades. Sometimes a 20mm cannon was mounted on the bow and others had a "piggyback" arrangement, a .50 cal machine gun on top of an 81mm mortar. , What the boats benefited in heavy firepower they lacked in armor or shielding. Although the .50 cal machine guns and bridge area had some ceramic armor shielding, the boats were designed to rely on rapid acceleration, maneuverability, and speed to get out of tight situations. To compensate for lack of armor protection, crews in the field would attach flak jackets to the sides of the boat, lay the jackets around ammunition crates (to prevent ammo exploding from enemy fire), and stack sandbags around the machine guns and other strategic areas. Crews also welded rebar on parts of the boat to deflect rockets or cause them to explode away from the boat.

US operations[]

PBRs were operating with the U.S. Naval Reserve up until 1995 at Mare Island, California prior to the base's closure due to BRAC action that year. During the Vietnam War, Mare Island was home to the U.S. Navy's Repair Facilities, Mothballing Operations, Submarine Operations, and Riverine Training Operations for both Swift Boats and PBRs.

The training areas for the PBRs and Swift Boats still exist today within the Napa Sonoma Marsh state wildlife area. Sloughs such as Dutchman Slough, China Slough, Napa Slough, Devil's Slough, Suisun marshland and the Napa River all run through the former training area.

In the late 1990s, what remained of the U.S. Navy PBR force (Swift Boats had been retired from the U.S. Navy immediately following the Vietnam War during the early 1970s) was moved further inland towards Sacramento, California, the state capital, which is also intertwined with rivers. From Sacramento, PBRs can still transit directly to and through San Francisco Bay and into the Pacific Ocean, if need be. The waters of the State Wildlife Area, next to the former U.S. Navy (Riverine) training base at Mare Island, are still available for U.S. Navy PBR usage.



Patrick Osborne Ford was a United States Navy sailor serving on a PBR patrol boat who was killed in Vietnam after he saved the lives of two of his shipmates. The US Navy posthumously awarded him the Navy Cross and later named a frigate, USS Ford (FFG-54), after him.

Films and media[]

The TV series, Great Ships, sometimes shown on The Military Channel, History Channel and Discovery Channel, has one episode covering riverine warfare. Live footage showing some of the riverine boats is used, but tall metal electric power lines are visible in the background of the speeding PBRs. Additionally, blank firing adapters on the M2 machine guns, 1980s-era Woodland Pattern Battle Dress Uniforms and crew members wearing "K-Pot" Kevlar helmets confirm that the film is not from Vietnam-era combat operations. Although not mentioned by the narrator, these scenes are of U.S. Navy Reservists undergoing training at Mare Island, California.

A PBR is a usable vehicle in Battlefield: Vietnam and Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam, as well as Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis.

A PBR is driven by Alex Mason and his MACV-SOG team in Call of Duty: Black Ops on a mission up river into Laos.

A PBR is the setting for much of the action in the film Apocalypse Now.

The PBR is also mentioned in Iron Maiden's song "The Edge of Darkness".

Colonel Le Monde's forces use the PBR, referred to as a "pibber", in the Electronic Arts game Nuclear Strike although the boats were never referred to as a "pibber" in the Navy.[citation needed]

Far Cry 3 has a boat named "Patrol boat" that is almost an exact copy of the PBR.

See also[]

  • Fast Patrol Craft: An all aluminum, 50-foot (15 m) long, riverine boat commonly referred to as the Swift Boat by the U.S. Navy's Brown Water Navy during the Vietnam War.
  • Small unit riverine craft: Small armed and/or armored river craft used to maintain control of rivers and inland waterways.


  1. 458th Sea Tigers. Accessed on 13 August 2009.

458th Sea Tigers (current website)

Further reading[]

  • Friedman, Norman. U.S. Small Combatants, Including PT-Boats, Subchasers, and the Brown-Water Navy: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987. ISBN 0-87021-713-5.

External links[]

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