Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base

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Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base
Roundel of Thailand.svg
Part of Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)
Coordinates 17°23′11″N 102°47′18″E / 17.38639°N 102.78833°E / 17.38639; 102.78833 (Udorn RTAFB)
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Condition Military Air Force Base
Site history
Built 1955
In use 1955–present
Battles/wars Vietnam Service Medal ribbon.svg
Vietnam War
Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 579 ft / 136 m
Coordinates 17°23′11″N 102°47′18″E / 17.38639°N 102.78833°E / 17.38639; 102.78833Coordinates: 17°23′11″N 102°47′18″E / 17.38639°N 102.78833°E / 17.38639; 102.78833
VTUD is located in Thailand
Location of Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12/30 10,000 3,048 asphalt

Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base (Udorn RTAFB) is a Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) base, the home of 2nd Air Division/23rd Wing Air Combat Command. It is near the city of Udon Thani Province in northern Thailand and is now the main airport serving the city and province.

The RTAF 231 Squadron "Hunter" is assigned to Udorn, equipped with the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet-A.



Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base was established in the 1950s as a RTAF base.

The civil war inside Laos and fears of it spreading into Thailand led the Thai government to allow the United States to use covertly five Thai bases beginning in 1961 for the air defense of Thailand and to fly reconnaissance flights over Laos. Udorn was one of those bases.

Under Thailand's "gentleman's agreement" with the US, Royal Thai Air Force Bases used by the US Air Force (USAF) were considered RTAF bases and were commanded by Thai officers. Thai air police controlled access to the bases, along with USAF Security Police, who assisted them in base defense using sentry dogs, observation towers, and machine gun emplacements. Numbers of other USAF personnel were assigned as security police "augmentees" and placed on perimeter guard duty as alerts of possible enemy intrusions developed. USAF personnel, other than security police, augmentees, and combat aircrew members, were normally unarmed. Also, under the US-Thailand operations agreement, USAF military serving guard duty at Udorn were prohibited from "chambering a round" in their weapons until fired upon by an enemy. All USAF personnel were fully armed after 1967. Prior to that time weapons were stored in secured shipping containers and not carried by US personnel. For first threat defense, US personnel depended on Thai guards who were armed with US-issued M1 carbines.

The USAF forces at Udorn were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force (13th AF). Udorn was the site of TACAN station Channel 31 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions

The APO for Udorn was APO San Francisco 96237

USAF use during the Vietnam War[edit]

During the Vietnam War the base was a front-line USAF facility from 1964 through 1976.

Udorn RTAFB was also the Asian headquarters of Air America, a US passenger and cargo airline covertly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It supplied and supported covert operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

USAF advisory use (1964–1966)[edit]

The first USAF unit assigned to Udorn was a communications detachment from the 1st Mobile Communications Group, based at Clark Air Base, Philippines, in the summer of 1964. The first permanent USAF unit assigned at Udorn RTAFB was the 333d Air Base Squadron (333d ABS) in October 1964. Prior to the formation of the squadron, support personnel were provided by temporary duty personnel from the 35th Tactical Group at Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base. The 333d ABS came under the command and control of the 13th Air Force.

On 18 July 1965, the 333rd Air Base Squadron was re-designated the 6232nd Combat Support Group (CSG). This unit also came under the command and control of 13th Air Force and the 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing, a provisional wing at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. In July 1965, the 6234th TFW was the only tactical wing in Thailand.

The formation of the 6232d at Udorn was brought about because of expanding USAF programs, an increase in assigned personnel, and increased base support requirements. The majority of personnel at Udorn, prior to the formation of the group, were temporary duty (TDY) assignments. Shortly before the group was activated, a gradual input of permanent party personnel was made to replace those on temporary duty. On 15 November 1965, the 6232nd CSG was given the responsibility of reporting directly to the Deputy Commander 2nd Air Division, 13th Air Force, rather than directly to the 13th Air Force commander. The 6232nd CSG was re-designated the 630th Combat Support Group on 8 April 1966, with a reporting responsibility to the Deputy Commander, 7th Air Force/13th Air Force (7/13AF), headquartered at Udorn.

Squadrons known to have been deployed to Udorn were the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, based at Naha AB, Okinawa with the 39th Air Division(1 November 1965 – 15 August 1966), equipped with RF-101 "Voodoos", and the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, also based at Naha AB (25 February 1966 – 25 July 1966), equipped with the F-4C Phantom II.

Main Gate, Udorn RTAFB, 1973

432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing[edit]

RF-4C of the 14th Tactical Recon Squadron
McDonnell F-4D-28-MC Phantom 65-0683 of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 20 January 1972

On 18 September 1966, the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TRW) was activated and the 630th CSG was placed under the new wing and re-designated the 432nd CSG.[1] It performed combat tactical reconnaissance and added tactical fighter operations in October 1967, initially using fighters to provide combat air patrol and cover for unarmed reconnaissance planes, but later to fly strike missions. Wing fighter units destroyed many enemy aircraft: 36 confirmed aerial victories between 17 December 1967 and 8 January 1973. It also used AC-47D Spooky gunships to provide air defense of friendly Laotian outposts from June 1969 – June 1970. It ceased combat in Vietnam in January, in Laos in February, and in Cambodia in August 1973. The wing remained in Southeast Asia to perform reconnaissance and routine training to retain combat proficiency, changing designations from reconnaissance to fighter in November 1974. The wing supported Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of US personnel from Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 12 April 1975, and Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of US and South Vietnamese personnel from Saigon on 29 April 1975. From 13 to 15 May 1975, the wing played a major role in locating the SS Mayaguez and in the military operations associated with the recovery of that US commercial vessel and its crew from the Cambodians. The wing was relieved of all operational commitments on 30 November and inactivated at Udorn RTAFB on 23 December 1975.[1]:226

The 432nd TRW was the most diversified unit of its size in the USAF.

Squadrons of the 432nd TRW were:

Tactical reconnaissance squadrons[edit]

These three squadrons accounted for more than 80% of all reconnaissance activity over North Vietnam.

Tactical Fighter Squadrons[edit]

In addition to reconnaissance the 432d also had a tactical fighter squadron component as follows:

  • 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron (21 October 1967 – 30 June 1975) (F-4C/D Tail Code: OC Blue Tail Fin Tip)[1]:225
  • 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron (28 May 1968 – 5 July 1974) (F-4D Tail Code: OY Green Tail Fin Tip)[1]:225

Special Operations Squadrons[edit]

Douglas C/AC-47B-45-DK Skytrain Gunship 45-0010 of the 4th Special Operations Squadron – June 1970

By 1967 or earlier, air force weather modification flights were originating from a special operations group at Udorn. No more than four C‐130s, and usually only two, were assigned to the restricted section of the base. Their mission was to create rainfall over North Vietnam, Laos, and South Vietnam to hamper enemy logistics and tactical initiative.[2]

Beginning in late 1970, Udorn was drawn down as part of the overall US withdrawal from the Vietnam War:

  • On 5 November 1970, the 11th TRS was deployed to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, ending a tour of service with the 432nd TRW.
  • On 29 December 1970 the 4th Special Operations was inactivated, with its aircraft being transferred to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force.
  • On 15 April 1972 the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron with its C-130s was transferred to Korat RTAFB.

1972 augmentation[edit]

In 1972, tactical fighter strength was augmented at Udorn by deployed Tactical Air Command continental US-based squadrons in response to the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. During Operation Linebacker, between May and October 1972, the 432nd TRW had seven F-4 squadrons assigned or attached, making it the largest wing in the USAF. Units deployed to Udorn were:

With the end of the war in Southeast Asia in 1973, most of the F-4 squadrons that participated in the 1972 campaigns returned to their home stations and the numbers of USAF personnel and aircraft at Udorn were reduced.

By 1975, relations between Washington and Bangkok had become very sour. The Royal Thai Government wanted the USAF out of Thailand by the end of the year. Palace Lightning was the plan under which the USAF would withdrawal its aircraft and personnel from Thailand.

  • The 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron was inactivated in June 1975.
  • The 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was inactivated in June 1975.

The 423d TRW was inactivated on 23 December 1975 and the last USAF personnel departed Udorn in January 1976.[1] Udorn RTAFB was turned over to Thai authorities. It is now operated by the Royal Thai Air Force with aircraft from the 2nd Air Division being based there.

Sapper attacks[edit]

  • 26 July 1968: A team of 25 or more enemy personnel equipped with automatic weapons attacked Udorn RTAFB causing severe damage to a USAF C-141[3]
  • 3 October 1972: A group of approximately four to six individuals attempted an attack, with only one survivor.[4] HISTORY REPORT FOR 3 October 1972: From the 432 Tactical Reconnaissance Wing historical reports submitted for October – December 1972.

On 3 October 1972, Udorn was attacked by an unknown number of sappers, presumably intent on the destruction of aircraft and facilities. Contact with sappers first occurred at 00:50 when a Thai security guard was accosted by two unidentified individuals who shot and wounded him and destroyed his radio equipment. Ten minutes later, two intruders were reported inside the November revetment (between the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TRW) and the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) building). The area was immediately surrounded by security police units. At 01:10 the two sappers responded to attempts at dispersal with grenades and automatic weapons fire. Sporadic fire continued until 02:40 hours when one of the sappers, wounded earlier while trying to escape, fell from the revetment wall, detonating the explosives strapped to his body. The explosion resulted in window damage to the 555th TFS building. Investigators later found the remains of the infiltrator spread over a 125-foot area. The second sapper was found wounded, lying among several satchel charges at the other end of the revetment. He was dragged away from the explosives and given medical attention. At 04:11 a tower sentry on the southwest perimeter reported a Thai handler on the adjacent post had been fired upon and believed hit. Minutes later, flare and searchlight aircraft arrived on the scene and four air force dog handlers began a sweep from the kennels to the area around the endangered Thai guard. On approaching the area, grenades and small arms fire stopped their advance. The guard was later found dead. From 05:30 to 06:00 six infiltrators were seen exiting the southwest perimeter. A breach in the concertina wire and fence was later found in this area Between 08:30 and 09:00 Thai patrols outside the southwestern perimeter encountered hostiles. The result of these encounters was two hostile casualties. The firefight continued for approximately an hour before contact was broken. There was no further hostile action. At 15:59 an explosion, attributed to a delayed-fuse satchel charge, occurred in the Coast Guard area of Alpha sector. Investigators found only minor damage to one building and another unexploded satchel charge under a second structure.The attack resulted in three hostiles killed, one wounded and captured. One Thai guard was killed and six US Air Force and Thai personnel were wounded. Ten satchel charges were recovered and eight to ten were later destroyed. Three grenades, a small block of TNT, a mine, and several small arms were also recovered after the attack. All recovered explosives and weapons were of communist bloc manufacture. According to the official report on the attack, a total of eight sappers were actually seen during the action, two in the November revetment and six exiting through a breach in the perimeter fence in Alpha sector. Hostile fire was reported from outside the perimeter at the time the six intruders were exiting Alpha sector, indicating the presence of other unfriendly forces. The US Air Force casualty data reports that on 3 October 1972, Staff Sergeant Glen R. Baker, Technical Sergeant Thomas W. Dexter, and Airman First Class James Myers were injured during the hostile sapper attack at Udorn Air Base.[5]

Air America[edit]


Udorn RTAFB was the Asian headquarters for Air America. Air America provided essential resources for the war in Laos and elsewhere. Its predecessor, Civil Air Transport (CAT), started operations from Udorn on 11 September 1955 with the arrival of three C-46s delivering food and emergency aid into Indochina. By the end of September, CAT had flown more than 200 missions to 25 reception areas, delivering 1,000 tons of emergency food. Conducted smoothly and efficiently, this airdrop relief operation marked the beginning of CAT's and, later, Air America's support of US assistance programs in Laos.

Air America's roles supportive of covert and overt situations related to hostilities in Southeast Asia and elsewhere worldwide provided buffers and solutions to problems the United States faced in various locations. Operations were focused in Laos as part of the "secret war" the United States carried out against the Pathet Lao communist rebels operating in the country. Udorn RTAFB also served as the site of "Headquarters 333", the Thai organization in charge of their forces in Laos.

On 27 January 1973, the Paris agreement on Vietnam was concluded, providing for the withdrawal of American troops. The following month, a cease-fire agreement was signed in Vientiane, leading to the formation of a coalition government for Laos. On 3 June 1974, the last Air America aircraft crossed the border from Laos into Thailand. The end went well: Air America's operations office in Vientiane informed Washington that the departure of Air America from Laos was without incident. Operations in Vietnam continued until the fall of Saigon in April 1975.

CIA Detention Site Green[edit]

The BBC has reported that the base was the location of a CIA black site, known to insiders as "Detention Site Green", used to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, a 31-year-old Saudi-born Palestinian, believed to be one of Osama Bin Laden's top lieutenants.[6] In December 2014 the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) published an executive summary of a secret 6,000 page report on CIA techniques. The report alleges that at least eight Thai senior officials knew of the secret site. The site was closed in December 2002.[7] Thailand has denied the existence of the site while the US government has neither confirmed or denied its existence.

Earlier reports alleged that a Voice of America relay station in the Ban Dung District of Udon Thani Province was the CIA black site.[8][9]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977 (PDF). Office of Air Force History. pp. 225–6. ISBN 0912799129. 
  2. ^ Hersh, Seymour M (3 July 1972). "Rainmaking Is Used As Weapon by U.S." New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  3. ^ Vick, Alan (1995). Snakes in the Eagle's Nest A History of Ground Attacks on Air bases (PDF). Rand Corporation. pp. 81–82. ISBN 9780833016294. 
  4. ^ Udorn RTAFB Yahoo Group
  5. ^ U.S. Armed Services Center for Unit Records Research
  6. ^ Chongkittavorn, Kavi (15 May 2018). "Thailand's black site: Who is accountable?" (Opinion). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 15 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "CIA director Gina Haspel's Thailand torture ties". BBC News. 2018-05-04. Retrieved 15 May 2018. 
  8. ^ Crispin, Shawn W (2008-01-25). "US and Thailand: Allies in Torture". Asia Times. Retrieved 2014-11-10. 
  9. ^ "Suspicion over Thai 'black ops' site". Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-11-05. Retrieved 27 April 2018.