Unusual River Boats Plying Vietnamese Waters

Boats employ recycled materials from a turbulent time.

Fuel Tank Boat Southeast Asia
Fuel Tank Boat Southeast Asia
** Image by Hilli Rathner (?) via Des Barker**

Aluminum lasts a long time. It’s why airplanes are not subject to the same planned obsolescence that allows the automotive industry to continually generate repeat customers. Though the last combat mission over Vietnam was flown almost four decades ago, the remnants of the air war are still visible in the Southeast Asian country.

Blogger David Cenciotti posted these photos of canoe-like watercraft fashioned from external fuel tanks used by U.S. aircraft. Modern day Vietnamese are apparently using the canoes for river transportation. They were ingeniously adapted by snipping out an opening in the top surface of the fuel tank. He supposes the tanks were jettisoned in flight, though commenters on his blog site suggest the tanks more likely came from overstock that was simply left behind when U.S. air bases were abandoned at the end of the war in 1975. Reader Jason Pope posted a photo of an F-4B cradling a mammoth centerline fuel tank with small fins that appear to match those pictured on the canoes.

Surplus external fuel tanks have been used for all manner of earthly purposes. After World War II, Piper designed and built the Skycycle, a tiny single-seater whose fuselage was made from the drop tank of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter.

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