Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base
|Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base|
|Part of Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)|
|Type||Air Force Base|
|Owner||Royal Thai Air Force|
|Operator||Royal Thai Air Force|
|Controlled by||Royal Thai Air Force|
|Condition||Military Air Force Base|
|Elevation AMSL||9 ft / 3 m|
Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base is approximately 40 kilometres north of central Bangkok and is the main operating and command base for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF). In addition, units of the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police have personnel located there.
The first flights to Don Muang were made on 8 March 1914 and involved the transfer of aircraft of the RTAF. Three years earlier, Thailand had sent three army officers to France to train as pilots. On completion of their training in 1911, the pilots were authorized to purchase four Breguets and four Nieuports, which formed the basis of the RTAF.
Royal Thai Air Force Units
Don Muang RTAFB is an active RTAF base, the home of the 1st Air Division, and consists primarily of non-combat aircraft:
- 601 Transport Squadron flies C-130H/C-130H-30.
- 602 Royal Flight flies Airbus A310-324, Airbus A319, Boeing 737, BAe 748
- 603 Transport Squadron flies Alenia G222, BAe 748
- 604 Communications Squadron flies T-41D, Cessna 150H
- 904 Aggressor Squadron Northrop F-5E Tiger II
USAF use during the Vietnam War
During the early years of the Vietnam War (1961–1966), Don Muang was used as a major command and logistics hub of the USAF under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force.
After the expansion of U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in 1966, most American units and personnel were transferred from Don Muang, however a small USAF liaison office remained at the base until 1975. The APO for Don Muang was APO San Francisco, 96303.
USAF Advisory Units
In April 1961, an advance party of the 6010th Tactical Group, USAF, arrived at Don Muang at the request of the Royal Thai government to establish an aircraft warning system.:279 On 20 April 1961 six F-100 Super Sabres from the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Clark Air Base deployed to Don Muang in Operation "Bell Tone". In March 1962, a small detachment of F-102 Delta Daggers from the 509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, from Clark AB, Philippines were sent to Don Muang. Their mission was to bolster the air defense capabilities of the Royal Thai Air Force. For the next several years, a minimum of four F-102 interceptors were kept on alert at Don Muang.:268
In November 1961, four RF-101C reconnaissance aircraft of the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Misawa AB, Japan, and their photo lab arrived at Don Muang under "Operation Able Marble". The RF-101s were sent to assist RTAF RT-33 aircraft in performing aerial reconnaissance flights over Laos.:75 The RF-101s stayed until May 1962, then returned for a second deployment during November–December 1962. In November 1961, Detachment 10, 13th Air Force was established there to support USAF operations.:279 In August 1962, elements of the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron from Kadena AB, Okinawa, were deployed to Don Muang flying RF-101Cs. On 14 August 1962 an Able Marble F-101C was hit by Pathet Lao antiaircraft fire over the Plain of Jars, but managed to return to Don Muang where it successfully made a belly-landing.
On 6 March 1962, a joint communication was issued by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Koman in which the United States declares its "firm intention... to aid Thailand, its ally and historic friend in resisting communist aggression and subversion". As a result, the Military Assistance Command Thailand (MACT) was set up on 15 May 1962 at Don Muang. On 16 May, eleven C-130s of the 315th Air Division arrived at Don Muang carrying aerial port, flight crew and maintenance personnel to support increased air operations from Thailand.:113 An aeromedical control center was established at Don Muang in mid-1962 and by 1963 a detachment of the 9th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was based there.:396
In July 1962, Detachment 10 was replaced by the 6010th Tactical Group.:279
35th Tactical Group
In November 1962, the 2nd Air Division assumed control of the 6010th Tactical Group. In July 1963 the group was re-designated the 35th Tactical Group.:279 The 35th Tactical Group consisted of the following units:
- 35th Air Base Squadron – Don Muang
- 331st Air Base Squadron – Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base
- 332nd Air Base Squadron – Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base
- Detachment 1, 35th Tactical Group – Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base
By mid-1964, the situation in Southeast Asia was ambiguous. North Vietnam was determined to take over South Vietnam. Communist forces were making military and political gains in Laos. The United States was taking over the role of "protector" from France in the area and the fear was that communism would prevail over the democratic governments in the region. However, there was no real justification for a full-scale American military involvement in the region.
In early-July 1964, a detachment of C-130Bs from the 6091st Reconnaissance Squadron based at Don Muang began flying "Queen Bee" communications intercept missions off the North Vietnamese coast.:228
On 31 July 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred. It was a pair of alleged attacks by North Vietnamese gunboats on two US destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, off the North Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. As a result, President Johnson would order more forces to support the South Vietnamese government, and additional USAF forces were dispatched to Thailand, beginning a large scale US military presence in Southeast Asia.:50:145
In April 1965, the C-123 detachment was redesignated as Detachment 4, 315th Air Division and in September the C-123s were replaced by four C-130s. Also in April a new aerial port squadron, later designated as the 6th Aerial Port Squadron, replaced the former detachment of the 8th Aerial Port Squadron.:409
631st Combat Support Group
In July 1965, the 35th Tactical Group was re-designated the 6236th Combat Support Group and again in April 1966 it was re-designated the 631st Combat Support Group. In March 1965, there were 1,342 enlisted men stationed at Don Muang RTAFB, with their primary mission to provide support for all USAF units and detachments assigned to the base or other bases in Thailand.
Units assigned to Don Muang RTAFB were the following:
- Host Unit – 631st Combat Support Group – two Douglas C-47 Skytrains
USAF withdrawal from Don Muang
By 1966 the USAF had established a major presence in Thailand, operating from six RTAF bases. At Don Muang the USAF had stationed Strategic Air Command KC-135 tankers for refueling tactical combat aircraft over the skies of Indochina. Thailand was officially neutral in the Vietnam War and the Thai government was reluctant to allow USAF operations from its main civil airport and so most operations were moved to lower visibility RTAF bases.
The USAF 7th Air Force in Saigon wanted to have additional KC-135s in Thailand and the solution reached was to expand the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield and base the tankers there. Expansion of U-Tapao began in October 1965, with the completed new facility opening at the end of 1967. The 11,000-foot (3,400 m) runway became operational on 6 July 1966. U-Tapao received its first complement of KC-135 tankers in August 1966. By September, the base was supporting 15 tankers.
The opening of U-Tapao also allowed the United States to route most cargo through that facility rather than having large cargo aircraft arrive in the capital. By 1970 most USAF operations had moved out of Don Muang. In late-1971 the Thai Government allowed US personnel to enter the country direct to the remote RTAF bases without needing to transit Don Muang, further reducing USAF operations there.:410
- Don Mueang International Airport
- Royal Thai Air Force Museum
- Seventh Air Force
- Thirteenth Air Force
- United States Air Force In Thailand
- United States Pacific Air Forces
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- Thompson, Wayne (2000). To Hanoi and back: The United States Air Force and North Vietnam 1966-1973 (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 6. ISBN 9781560988779.
- Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
- Glasser, Jeffrey D. (1998). The Secret Vietnam War: The United States Air Force in Thailand, 1961-1975. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0084-6.
- Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
- The Royal Thai Air Force (English Pages)
- Royal Thai Air Force - Overview