Royal Thai Air Force

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Royal Thai Air Force
(RTGS: Kong Thap Akat Thai)
Royal Thai Air Force Seal.svg
Emblem of the Royal Thai Air Force
Founded 2 November 1913 (102 years)
Country  Thailand
Type Air Force
Size 45,000 Active personnel
288 Aircraft
Part of Royal Thai Armed Forces
HQ Don Muang Air Base, Bangkok
March มาร์ชกองทัพอากาศ
(Royal Thai Air Force March)
Anniversaries 9 April 1937
Engagements World War I
Franco-Thai War
World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Commander-in-Chief Air Chief Marshal Treetod Sonjance
Royal Thai Air Force Flag.svg
Unit Colour
Royal Thai Air Force Unit Colour.svg
Roundel of the Royal Thai Air Force.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack L-39, Alpha Jet, AU-23
Fighter Gripen, F-16, F-5
Helicopter UH-1, Bell 412, S-92, Eurocopter EC725
Reconnaissance Lear 35A, Arava, Saab 340 AEW&C
Trainer Airtrainer, PC-9, DA42
Transport C-130, BT-67, Nomad, ATR-72, 737-400/800, A319, A310

The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF (Thai: กองทัพอากาศไทย, RTGS: Kong Thap Akat Thai) is the air force of the Kingdom of Thailand. Since its establishment in 1913 as one of the earliest air forces of Asia, the Royal Thai Air Force had engaged in numerous major and minor battles. During the Vietnam War era, the air force was supplied with USAF-aid equipment.


In February 1911 the Belgian pilot Charles Van Den Born displayed the first aircraft in Siam at the Sa Pathum Horse Racing Course. The Siamese authorities were impressed enough that on 28 February 1912 they dispatched three officers to learn to fly in France, the main centre of aviation development of the time. After learning to fly, the three officers returned to Siam in November 1913 with eight aircraft (four Breguets and four Nieuport IVs). In March of the next year they moved from Sa Pathum airfield to Don Muang.

The Ministry of Defence put the Siamese Flying Corps under the control of the Army Engineer Inspector General Department. Prince Purachatra, Commander of the Army Engineers, and his brother Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath were instrumental in the development of the army's Royal Siamese Aeronautical Service to which it was renamed in 1919. In 1937, the service was again renamed when it became an independent service, as the Royal Siamese Air Force but the takeover of the country by the Thai ethnic group meant that name would only be used until 1939, when it became the Royal Thai Air Force.

During the French-Thai War, the Thai Air Force scored several air-to-air-victories against the Vichy Armée de l'Air. During World War II the Thai Air Force supported the Royal Thai Army in its occupation of the Burmese Shan States as allies of the Japanese in 1942 and defended Bangkok from allied air raids during the latter part of the war. Some RTAF personnel assisted the resistance against the Japanese. After World War II, the Thai Air Force sent three C-47s to support the United Nations in Korean War. The victorious Wings Unit, operating the C-47, also joined the US Forces in the Vietnam War. Along the border, the Thai Air Force launched many operations against communist forces, such as Ban Nam Ta Airfield Raid in Laos, and clashes occurred between Thai and Vietnamese troops along the Thai-Cambodian border. When the Cold War ended, the Thai Air Force participated in Operation Border Post 9631 along the Thai-Burmese border in 1999, and launched the evacuation of foreigners during the 2003 Phnom Penh riots in Cambodia.

Command and control[edit]

The Royal Thai Air Force is commanded by the Commander of the Royal Thai Air Force (ผู้บัญชาการทหารอากาศไทย) currently Air Chief Marshal Prajin Jantong, who was appointed in 2012.[1] The Royal Thai Air Force Headquarters is located in Don Muang Airbase, Bangkok, Thailand.

  • Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Treetod Sonjance
  • Deputy Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Wattana Maneenai
  • Chairman of the RTAF Advisory Board: Air Chief Marshal Sutthiphan Kritsanakhup
  • Assistant Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Twidanes Angsusingha
  • Assistant Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Padet Wongpinkaew
  • Chief of Staff of the Air Force: Air Chief Marshal Johm Rungswang

List of Commanders[edit]

Rank and insignia[edit]


Regimental colours guard of Thai air cadet, RTAF, in full dress (royal Guard)

The RTAF command structure consists of five groups: headquarters, logistics support, education, special services, and combat forces.

  1. The headquarters group in Bangkok performs the usual general staff functions, including planning and directing operations of the combat elements.
  2. Combat Group.
  3. The support group provides engineering, communications, ordnance, transportation, quartermaster, and medical services support.
  4. The education group coordinates and supervises all air force training programmes.
  5. The special service group is responsible for the welfare of air force personnel and coordinates the activities of Thai civil aviation with those of the air force.


The Royal Thai Air Force maintains a number of modern bases which were constructed between 1954 and 1968, have permanent buildings and ground support equipment.

All but one were built and used by United States forces until their withdrawal from Thailand in 1976 when Thai air force assumed use of the installations at Takhli and Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat). In the late 1980s, these bases and Don Muang Air Base outside Bangkok, which the air force shares with civil aviation, remain the primary operational installations.

Maintenance of base facilities abandoned by the United States proved costly and exceeded Thai needs. Nonetheless, all runways were still available for training and emergency use.

By 2004 the Royal Thai Air Force had its main base at Don Muang airport, adjacent to Don Mueang International Airport. The RTAF also had large air fields and facilities at Nakon Ratchasima Ubon Ratchathani, and Takhli.


The following squadrons are currently active with the Royal Thai Air Force.[citation needed]

An F-5E with the 904 Aggressor Squadron
A Basler BT-67 cargo airlifter
RTAF Fighter Jets
Squadron Equipment Wing RTAF Base Notes
102 Fighter Sqn F-16A/B ADF Wing 1 Korat
103 Fighter Sqn F-16A/B Wing 1 Korat
201 Helicopter Sqn Bell 412, S-92 Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiem Royal Guard
203 Helicopter Sqn UH-1H Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiem SAR detachments at many locations.
To be replaced by EC 725 [2]
401 Light Attack Sqn L-39 Wing 4 Takhli To be replaced by T-50[3]
402 Elint Sqn Learjet 35, IAI Arava Wing 4 Takhli
403 Fighter Sqn F-16AM/BM Wing 4 Takhli
501 Light Attack Sqn Fairchild AU-23 Wing 5 Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
601 Transport Sqn C-130H/H-30 Wing 6 Don Muang
602 Royal Flight Sqn A319, B737 Wing 6 Don Muang Royal Guard
603 Transport Squadron ATR72 Wing 6 Don Muang
604 Civil Pilot Training Sqn PAC CT-4A, T-41D Wing 6 Don Muang
701 Fighter Sqn JAS-39 Gripen Wing 7 Surat Thani Total 12 Gripens delivered, replacing F-5E/F.[1]
702 Sqn Saab 340, S-100B Argus Wing 7 Surat Thani Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[4]
211 Fighter Sqn F-5T Tigris Wing 21 Ubon
231 Attack Sqn Alpha Jet Wing 23 Udorn
411 Fighter Sqn L-39 Wing 41 Chiang Mai
461 Transport Sqn GAF Nomad, Basler BT-67 Wing 46 Phitsanulok Also conducts rainmaking flights.
561 Fighter Sqns - Wing 56 Hat Yai Forward operating base for 701 Fighter Sqn.
904 Aggressor Sqn F-5E - Don Muang Former unit of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Mahidol.
1st Flying Training Sqn PAC CT/4E Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Primary flight training.
2nd Flying Training Sqn Pilatus PC-9M Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Basic flight training.
3rd Flying Training Sqn Bell 206B (withdrawn 2006) Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Helicopter training.

Royal Thai Air Force Commando Company[edit]

This 100 man unit, part of the Royal Thai Air Force's Special Combat Operations Squadron, was formed in the late 1970s and are based near Don Muang Airport and provide anti-hijacking capabilities. They have three assault platoons, each divided into two sections.


Royal Thai Air Force frontline fighter, Saab JAS 39 Gripen

The Royal Thai Air Force Combat Group is divided into 11 wings plus a training school, plus a few direct-reporting units.

  • Directorate of Air Operations Control, RTAF
  • RTAF Security Force Command
  • Flying Training School
composed of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Flying Training Squadrons. Based at RTAFB Kamphang Saen in Nakhon Pathom Province
  • Wing 1
Interceptor and fighter wing based at RTAFB Korat in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
  • Wing 2
Helicopter wing providing utility/transport and search and rescue. Normally based at RTAFB Lop Buri in Lop Buri Province
  • Wing 4
Light attack / Interceptor wing based at RTAFB Takhli in Nakhon Sawan Province.
  • Wing 5
SAAB 340/AEW of the Royal Thai Air Force.
Transport and special mission wing based at RTAFB Prachuap Khiri Khan in Ao Manao, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.
  • Wing 6
Multi-role non-combat wing providing transport, mapping, communications and surveying. Based at RTAFB Don Muang/Bangkok.
  • Wing 7
Interceptor and fighter wing based at RTAFB Surat Thani in Surat Thani Province. The wing is nicknamed, "Ferocious Shark of the Andaman" as well as "House of Gripen" as they fly Gripen aircraft.[5]
  • Wing 21
Fighter and attack wing based at RTAFB Ubon Ratchathani in Ubon Ratchathani Province.
  • Wing 23
Light attack wing based at RTAFB Udon in Udon Thani Province.
  • Wing 41
Light attack wing based at RTAFB Chiang Mai in Chiang Mai Province.
  • Wing 46
Transport/rainmaking wing based at RTAFB Phitsanulok in Phitsanulok Province.
  • Wing 56
Frontal operating base at RTAFB Hatyai in Songkhla Province.


Current inventory[edit]

Royal Thai Air Force F-16 descends after being refuelled by a KC-135
A Thai S-92 for the Royal flight
Royal Thai Air Force A319
Royal Diamond DA42 at Khon Kaen
Thai Air Force Lockheed C-130H Hercules
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-5 United States fighter F-5E 29[6]
F-16 United States multirole F-16A/B OCU
40 [7]
13 [7]
JAS 39 Sweden multirole JAS 39C/D 12 [4]
Alpha Jet France / Germany light attack 19[6]
Saab 340 Sweden early warning and control S 100B 2[6] aircraft mounted with a Erieye radar
DA42 Austria reconnaissance 5[6]
Piaggio P.180 Italy reconnaissance 1 on order[6]
Learjet 35 United States photomapping 1[6]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 1[8]
A319 France VIP A319CJ 1[9]
Basler BT-67 United States transport 8[6] modified Douglas DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
C-130 United States transport C-130H 12[6]
HS 748 United Kingdom transport 5[6]
Super King Air United States utility transport 90 1[6]
GAF Nomad Australia transport N.22B 14[6]
Saab 340 Sweden transport 2[6]
IAI Arava Israel transport 2[6]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland utility / transport 16[6] STOL capable aircraft
S-92 United States VIP / Med Evac 3[10]
EC 725 France CSAR/SAR 6[11]
Bell UH-1 United States CSAR/SAR UH-1H 18[6] To be replaced by EC 725 [2]
Bell 412 United States utility 8[6]
Trainer Aircraft
F-5 United States conversion trainer F-5F 4[6]
F-16 United States conversion trainer F-16B 15[6]
JAS 39 Sweden conversion trainer JAS 39D 6[6]
T-50 Republic of Korea Lead-in fighter trainer T-50TH 4 on order[3]
Aero L-39 Czech Republic trainer 34[6]
PC-9 Switzerland trainer 22[6]
DA42 Austria multi engine trainer 5[6]



Type Country of Origin Role Quantity Note
Air-to-air missiles
IRIS-T  Germany SRAAM 40+ on JAS-39 C/D.
Meteor  Germany BVRAAM ? on JAS-39 C/D (future).
AIM-9P-3/P-4/M-9 Sidewinder  United States SRAAM 550+ on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
AIM-120C5/C7 AMRAAM  United States BVRAAM 100+ on F-16 ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D. C7 Delivered.
Python-4  Israel AAM 50+ on F-5 T.
Air-to-Surface Missiles/Rockets/Bombs
GBU-10F/B, -12E/B,-22 Paveway II  United States Laser-Guided Bomb ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D
GBU-31(V)1/B JDAM  United States GPS/INS Guided Bomb ? JAS-39 C/D(future), F-16 MLU(future).
GBU-38/B JDAM  United States GPS/INS Guided Bomb ? JAS-39 C/D(future), F-16 MLU(future).
Mk 81/Mk82/Mk84  United States 250/500/2000 pound general purpose bombs ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
BLU-10A/B,-23/B,-32B/C,-27/B  United States Napalm Bomb ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
CBU-59/B,-71A/B  United States Cluster Bomb ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
AGM-65D/G/G-2 Maverick  United States Air-to-Ground Missile 300+ on F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D.
RBS-15F Mk.2  Sweden (200 kg) Anti-ship missile 12 on JAS-39 C/D.
CRV-7  Canada 2.75inch rocket ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
Mk.40  United States 2.75inch rocket ? on F-5 E/F/T, F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D, ALPHAJET A, L-39 ZA/ART.
GPU-5/A  United States 30mm gun pod ? on F-5 E/F/T. Podded version of GAU-8 Avenger.
Surface to air defence systems
Oerlikon ADATS   Switzerland laser-guided supersonic missile 4 Fixed emplacement/semi-mobile
Saab Bofors Dynamics RBS 70 Mk.2  Sweden Man-portable air-defence system (MANPAD) ?
QW-2 Vanguard II  China Man-portable air-defence system (MANPAD) ?
Rheinmetall Mauser Mk.30 mod.F  Germany Twin 30mm Anti Aircraft Artillery 8
Bofors 40mm L/70  Sweden 40mm Anti Aircraft Artillery ?
Type 74  China Twin 37mm Anti Aircraft Artillery ?
Air Search Radar, Weather Radar
Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117  United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 2 RTADS I.
Alenia Marconi Systems Martello-743D  United Kingdom Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 4 RTADS l/ll.
Northrop Grumman AN/FPS-130X  United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3 RTADS lll.
Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-78  United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3 RTADS ll.[12]
Lockheed Martin AN/TPS-79  United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 1 RTADS ll.
Siemens DR-162 ADV  United States Short Range 2D Air Search Radar ?
Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-703  United States Mobile Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3
Ericsson Giraffe-180/40  Sweden Mobile Medium Range 2D Air Search Radar 2+/2
Toshiba-ASR  Japan Airport Surveillance Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics DWSR-88C  United States Weather Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics TVDR-3501C  United States Weather Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics TVDR-2500C  United States Mobile Weather Radar ?
KRONOS Radar Systems  Italy Air Search Radar ?
Avia Satcom C2ADS  Thailand Air Search Radar ?
Ground Weaponry
Cadillac Gage V150 Commando  United States 4x4 armored car 12 With 12.7mm and 7.62mm MG
Rheinmetall Condor  Germany 4x4 armored car 18 With 20mm and 7.62mm MG

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ѧѺѭдѺ٧ͧͧѾҡ". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Nanuam, Wassana (2016-02-11). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "World Air Forces 2015 pg. 30". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Royal Thai Air Force F-16s Database". 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Royal Thai Air Force B737". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "A319 for VIPs". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Thai military gets new S-92, Mi-17 helicopters". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Thailand returns to Airbus Helicopters". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Northrop Grumman to Supply AN/TPS-78 Air Defense Radar Systems to Royal Thai Air Force". 26 November 2013. 
  • Wieliczko, Leszek A. and Zygmunt Szeremeta. Nakajima Ki 27 Nate (bilingual Polish/English). Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2004. ISBN 83-89088-51-7.

External links[edit]