International Hydrofoil Society

Award Citation


CAPT Robert J. Johnston, USN (Ret.)


[IHS regrets to report that Bob Johnston died on 16 Apr 99 after a long bout with skin cancer. Click Here to read the eulogy by his son David and the tribute by Bill Ellsworth]

Captain Robert J. Johnston, USNR (Ret.), devoted almost his entire professional career to the design and development of hydrofoil ships and craft for both military and civilian applications. During and following World War II, as an engineering officer in the US Navy, he was deeply involved in programs for hydrofoil design, research, and development in the Bureau of Ships and the Office of Naval Research. This included many different designs offered by a wide variety of contractors. Of particular note was the modified Chris Craft SEA LEGS produced by the naval architect firm of Gibbs & Cox. This small craft demonstrated the value of a fully submerged foil configuration with autopilot control, a prime consideration in the design of the navy hydrofoils to follow including the HIGH POINT (PCH-1), PLAINVIEW (AGEH-1), FLAGSTAFF (PGH-1), TUCUMCARI (PGH-2), and finally, the squadron of six Patrol Hydrofoil Missile Ships, the PEGASUS class PHMs.

Captain Johnston left the Navy in 1954 and joined Miami Shipbuilding Corporation, later becoming its president. There he was deeply involved in a number of hydrofoil programs including the hydrofoil landing craft HALOBATES. In 1960 he joined the Grumman Corporation where he became Director of Marine Programs. He was responsible for a number hydrofoil projects including the H.S. DENISON for the Maritime Administration (MARAD); the navy hydrofoils PLAINVIEW, at 320 tons the world's largest, and the patrol gunboat FLAGSTAFF, and Grumman's commercial hydrofoil DOLPHIN.

In 1973, he returned to the US Navy as a civilian to become Manager of the Advanced Hydrofoil Program Office at the David Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center. He directed the R&D technical program using HIGH POINT and PLAINVIEW as well as other test craft to continue development of the criteria for design of navy hydrofoils. This formed the basis for design and construction of the squadron of six PHMs.

In 1982, Captain Johnston again retired from government service and became the founding president of Advanced Marine Systems Associates, Inc. Here, once more he devoted his attention to the application of advanced marine vehicles in a world-wide study of high speed waterborne transportation for the Urban Mass Transportation Agency of the US Department of Transportation. This remains as a prime source of data and analysis of commercial applications of advanced marine vehicles.

Without question Captain Johnston has been a significant force in the design, development, and application of hydrofoils throughout his long and distinguished career as a Naval Engineer. He stands alongside other illustrious pioneers such as Baron Hans Von Schertel, Carlo and Leopoldo Rodriquez, Michael Eames, and James Schuler, his friends and colleagues. His many accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of hydrofoil technology are most deserving of this recognition by the International Hydrofoil Society of which he is a founding member.


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