SBU-13 Rat Patrol Truck



On the West Coast, Special Boat Units would conduct underway gunshoots at San Clementi Is for their heavy crew served weapons such as 20mm and the 60mm and 81mm mortars and 50 cal MG. However during the winter months "inclimate weather caused sea states too rough for our small boats and many a scheduled gunshoot and valuable training times were lost.

In 1981 at Special Boat Unit-13 LCDR Thomas "Hulk "Richards was the Commanding Officer. He was a highly respected  SEAL Officer and SBU-13 was his first Command and he wanted his command operating. A certain cancelled  gunshoot infuriated him, especially when the crewmen were given work details and pier watches. But, what got his goat was he happened to walk in to the Ward room and find the Officers eating donuts and reading the newspaper. Well that wasn't going to ever happen again while he was in Command. So he questioned his Officers in his "gentile manner" what are the alternatives for heavy weapons shoots. At present none they told him. "Bullshit" was his reply.

About a hour later I just happened to be in the admin office checking the Pier watch schedule  when Hulk poked his head in and asked me to come to his Office. So for about a half hour we talked about heavy crew served weapons and discussed what was needed to build a mobile land  gun platform.  "Gray, I want the plans and drawings on my desk before you go home."

So I spent the rest of the day and, a long day, at that in the Armory with GMG1 Bill Danforth and we brain stormed and what weapons training could be accomplished and what we would need to mount crew served weapons and how to get them mobile. The answer was a truck! Then heavy steel plate for the bed would be added to mount the weapons and it would be strong enough to handle the recoil and shock of the weapons being fired.

We came up with the standard universal tripod the MK26 which could mount most of our SBU weapons, M-60, 50Cal, MK-19, and importantly the 60mm MK 4 naval mortar.  We also wanted a MK 68 mount which would mount the 20mm cannon.

I delivered the plans to the C.O. he looked them over and said where's the 81mm mortar? "Sir, the 60mm and 81mm are fired the same way, both trigger and drop fire methods and we train our guys the same methods and safety standards. If we add a 81mm we will need some heavy lift equipment to mount it which is probably out of our command." The Hulk growled a little, then said "Good enough, we will shoot it next month!"

In less than a month the SBU-13 Rat Patrol Truck was born. GMG1 Bill Danforth was the real wizard in scrounging the steel plate and getting the HT's to do a little drilling and welding. Capt Richards borrowed a truck from Naval Special Warfare Group ONE minus its truck bed. We then married the weapons platform to the truck.

Within a month to the day the "Rat Patrol" truck and ammo truck rolled out of the SBU-13 compound and went to the NSW desert base by the Salton Sea, Camp Kerry Niland.

Bill Danforth, a few other active duty gunnersmates and I were the advanced party and the rest of SBU-13 Boatcrews would be  come in Busses the next day to shoot. So we had a whole day of shooting and working out the bugs and having a fun day doing what gunnersmates like to do.

The Rat Patrol gun platform was a success, and would serve for years shooting at Niland and Camp Pendleton. Later the platform would be moved to a bigger truck  SBU-12 would also borrow the platform, Its final evolution was into a wheeled trailer including an 81mm mortar. Many a Combatant Crewman trained from that little bit of steel plank. It wasn't a boat but was a great heavy weapons training aid.

Capt Hulk Richards gave me allot of credit for the platform, but I give most of the Credit to my friend Bill Danforth.

The Gut Shot Rat with K-bar Knife, our logo on the Rat Patrol Truck.
The Rat Patrol Guntruck with 20mm cannon and 50 cal. MG at Camp Kerry Niland The creators of the Rat Patrol Guntruck: GMG1 Jim Gray on 20mm and GMG1 Bill Danforth on 50 Cal MG 20mm firing from the Truck gun platform 50 Cal MG firing from the gun truck

The second version of Gun Platform on a larger truck, GMG2 Bob Crow checking head space and timing.
Guntrailer circ. 1993 showing MK4 60mm mortar, 81mm mortar, and gunner firing MK-16 20mm cannon at Camp Pendleton. 81mm mortar being fired on Final Version of the Land Crew Served Weapons Platform, now in trailer version Guntrailer shows the variety of weapons to train on, twin 50cal. MGs 81 mm mortar/ 50cal. MG piggyback and 20mm cannon it could also mount MK-19 GL and M-60. etc.