The Ultimate PWC Repellent
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Advanced Tactical Weaponry for
You have this great sailing spot. But lately, it has become overrun with personal water craft (PWCs). Theyre noisy, numerous, and run into things. Unless you want to risk damage to you or your boat, you may decide to turn around and go home. May we suggest a more active approach?
In our quest for the best way to deal with PWCs, we
decided that the best defense is a good offense. In our case, the
best offense is close range advanced tactical weaponry.
Although there is a multitude of weapons systems available, our extensive research and testing revealed that the AIM-9 Sidewinder heat seeking air-to-air missile was the best tool for the job. First fired in 1953, and designed primarily for fleet air defense, this missile was used extensively in the Southeast Asian conflict. The weapon has been improved steady over the years, with the AIM-9M being the latest model, which costs approximately $58,000 a pop. Earlier models such as the AIM-9L or AIM-9P may be available for your boat, but you are going to loose some features such as reduced smoke and enhanced resistance to both electronic and infrared countermeasures.
We mounted our AIM-9M on a 1981 Hobie 16, through the use of custom made mount points on the tramp siderails. The missile is approximately 9 1/2 feet long, so care should be taken to avoid mounting it too far aft, as it will inhibit rudder movement. The fins span over 2 feet, so it is highly recommended that the boat be trailered with the missiles off (although there are those will argue this). The missile weighs 190 lbs., and for light crews can be a significant improvement on the windward side in heavy air. Since the average PWC does not emit a thermal signature remotely close to that of a MIG-29, the heat seeking properties of the missile had to be tweaked to a high degree of sensitivity. This introduced some problems in our testing, as you will see.
We tested our weapon at an undisclosed area in northern Lake
St. Clair. The area was heavily infested with PWCs,
and was a perfect proving ground.
As soon as we set sail, a PWC immediately crossed our bow.
The targeting system immediately acquired the target and the missile was launched. The tracking capability of the weapon was impressive.
A confirmed kill
As we passed the explosion, we assessed the effectiveness of the weapon, which was nothing short of amazing. The PWC had been reduced to some flaming wreckage at the intercept site, which was surrounded by a 500 yard debris field being rained upon by burning bits and pieces.
Our second test was performed with the objective of assessing the long range capabilities of the weapon. The Crispy Critter, skippered by Frank Nine Fingers Pineau, was stationed in the targeting zone as an observer craft.
With a PWC sighted off of our port bow, and Frank to starboard, we acquired the PWC and fired. For reasons not entirely known, Frank decides to light up a cigar.
At this point it was apparent that the tweaking of the missile's heat seeking sensitivity was to be our downfall. Frank starts shouting and waving his arms madly, the whole time holding the lit cigar in his hand.
Other than the part where we blew up Franks boat, our
experience with the AIM-9M was overwhelmingly positive. Frank was
able to jump clear just before impact, and was quickly rescued. Due
to the extreme heat detection sensitivity required to target
PWCs, considerable care should be exercised regarding the
environment in which these weapons are used. Nearby barbecues or
cigar smoking sailors can quickly interfere with targeting. Nothing
ruins a nice shrimp barbecue quicker than an incoming errant missile.
In our case, we blew up a Hobie 16, scorched a perfectly good Hobie
baseball cap, and hopelessly soiled a really nice pair of
It appears that when launching or sailing a sailboat in an area infested with PWCs, the most effective configuration is 2 of the missiles. The first is used early on, and the second is retained for the deterrent effect. We noted that upon striking the first target, the remaining PWCs vacated the area within seconds, presumably to avoid a similar fate and/or to summon local law enforcement authorities. In our case, the Macomb County Sheriff Dept. displayed significant anxiety, which was later tempered when they learned that the target was a PWC. One of the deputies present was noted to have said, So the guy has a couple of air-to-air missiles on his boat. What do you expect us to do about it?
This page last modified February 2, 2000
I did not write this article. Most of it came from ON THE WIRE, a Hobie 16 newsletter, edited by Bill Mattson.