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Radar & The PT Boat

As many of you know, late in World War II, USN PT boats carried the SO-Type radar and later, the SO-3 Type radar. The SO Type had the familiar dome as you see in photos of mid-war to late war PTs and on scale models of mid to late war PTs. The SO-3 were fitted to late war (1945) PT boats. This set had the "football shaped" dome.

Click on the photos below for a larger version

PT-328 with the 1945 style SO-3 radar - seen with is "football shaped" dome. (T. Garth Connelly archive photo)

PT-174 with SO Type radar - note the dome.
(Photo courtesy Wayne Traxel)

But, earlier in the war, experimental radar was fitted to some boats to give the boats a tactical advantage in the field and to see if the boats could utilize radar. That radar was called the SCR-517A. According to Mr. Chip Marshall, "the radar was "built by Westinghouse, but Bell Labs were involved with development. It was an Army S Band Surface Radar used in PT boats. Total of 225 Built. It was supposed to have been developed from the Black Widow Radar."

The boats on the list as having the SCR-517A installed were 127, 128, 131, 132, 135, 136, 142, 143, 145, 149, 151, and 152. That information was given to me by Mr. Marshall. Mr. Wayne Traxel gave me additional data in the form that another boat, PT-164 also carried the SCR-517A. PT-164 was one of the boats that were painted in the Adaptor scheme (the Zebra scheme).

SO Type radar as see on the Higgins PT-240
Photo courtesy Wayne Traxel)

PT-149, off New Guinea. The SCR-517A radar seen behind the mast. Its likeness to a beehive led to the set being called the Beehive set. (T. Garth Connelly archive photo)

It has also been learned, thanks to Mr. Alex Johnson, that two boats of Squadron 9, PT-153 and PT-155 had their sets installed at the Elco factory. From Ted Walther, I learned that PT-167 carried the SCR-517 radar as did the 168, 169 and the 174 carried a SO-A radar. Mr. Walther believes that PT-166 carried the SCR-517 radar, but there is no photographic evidence of this.

Below are diagrams of the SO-Type Radar Mast and the SO-Type 3 Radar Mast. The SO-Type Radar started to appear on PTs from mid-1943 onwards. The late war boats (late 1944 to 1945) started to come from the factories completre with the SO-3 Type Radar installed.

SO-Type Radar Mast
SO-# Type Radar Mast
Diagrams from the archives of T. Garth Connelly - click for larger versions