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Royal Thai Air Force

Royal Thai Air Force
(RTGS: Kong Thab Akat Thai)
Emblem of the Royal Thai Air Force
Founded 2 November 1913 (102 year)
Country 23x15px Thailand
Type Air Force
Size 45,000 Active personnel
58 Training aircraft
158 Fighters
10 Reconnaissance aircraft
22 Transport Aircraft
33 Helicopters
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 Trithot Sonchaeng
Royal Thai Air Force Flag
Unit Colour
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 Thab 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 center 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

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 Prajin Jantong
  • Deputy Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Permkiat Lavanaman
  • Assistant Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Songtham Chokkanapitak
  • Assistant Commander-in-Chief: Air Chief Marshal Chanat Rattanaubol
  • Chief of Staff of the Air Force: Air Chief Marshal Araya Ngampramual

List of Commanders

Rank and insignia


File:Unit colours of the Air Cadet Regiment, King's Guard, RTAF.jpg
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.

Squadron Photo 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.
401 Light Attack Sqn L-39 Wing 4 Takhli
402 Elint Sqn Learjet 35, IAI Arava Wing 4 Takhli
403 Fighter Sqn F-16AM/BM Wing 4 Takhli To be upgraded.
501 Light Attack Sqn Fairchild AU-23 Peacemaker Wing 5 Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
601 Transport Sqn C-130H/H-30 Wing 6 Don Muang
602 Royal Flight Sqn A310, A319, A320, 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 on 2011 and 2013,[2] replacing F-5E/F.[1]

There are plans to purchase 6 additional Gripen fighters.[3]

702 Sqn Saab 340, S-100B Argus Wing 7 Surat Thani Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[3]
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.
Tango Sqn - - - Chiang Mai Historical aircraft unit, not controlled by the RTAF.
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

File:RTAF Blue Phoenix.JPG
RTAF Blue Phoenix Air Show at Don Muang, Bangkok, 2012

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.


SAAB 340/AEW of the Royal Thai Air Force.

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
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.
  • 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 aircraft

Photo Designation Aircraft Origin Role In service Orders Notes
B.F19 Pilatus PC-9M 23x16px  Switzerland advanced trainer 22 n/a Avionics upgraded locally
B.KhF1 Aero L-39ZA/ART 23x15px Czech Republic strike/trainer 36[2] n/a Westernized Aero L-39, with Israeli avionics and AIM-9. Some will be replaced with the new Lead-in fighter training procurement programme.[4][5]
B.F20/B.TF20 Diamond DA42 23x15px Austria advanced trainer 6 n/a [6]
Combat Aircraft
B.Kh20 Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen 23x15px Sweden multirole fighter 12[2] n/a 12 delivered from 2011.[7] 8 Gripen C and 4 Gripen D.[2]
B.Kh19 General Dynamics F-16A/B Block 15OCU/ADF/MLU 23x15px United States multirole fighter 55[2] n/a 28 F-16A, 14 F-16B, 13 F-16A ADF and 1 F-16B ADF.[2] 18 F 16 A/B undergoing MLU program and will be upgrade to the Block 52+ standard[8][8][9]
B.Kh18 Northrop F-5T/E 23x15px United States fighter-bomber 27[2] n/a 16 F-5T and 11 F-5E in service. F-5T were upgraded to be armed with Python-4 integrated with the Elbit Systems DASH (Display And Sight Helmet) HMS system.
B.J7 Dornier Alpha Jet A 23x15px Germany strike 19[2] n/a Ex-Luftwaffe. 5 spares. 1 lost. RTAF fitted AIM-9P/M.
B.K1 Saab 340 S-100B Argus 23x15px Sweden AEW 2[2] n/a 1st Argus received 2011 and 2nd 2012. Erieye radar.[10]
75px B.TL12 Learjet 35A 23x15px United States Photographic reconnaissance 1 n/a
75px B.F20/B.TF20 AU-23A 23x15px United States Photographic reconnaissance 16 n/a
75px B.L9 GAF N.22B Nomad 23x15px Australia Photographic reconnaissance 3 n/a 2 had service-life extension by TAI.
B.F20/B.TF20 DA42 MPP 23x15px Austria Reconnaissance 5[2] n/a
n/a ADS Aerostar Template:Country data Israel UAV 6 n/a
B.L8 Lockheed C-130H-30 23x15px United States tactical transport 12[2] n/a Undergoing MLU by Rockwell Collins and TAI [11]
B.L2k Basler BT-67 23x15px United States tactical transport 8[2] n/a Turbine C-47.firefighting/seeding. 1 lost Aug 2006.
B.L17 Saab 340 23x15px Sweden utility transport 2[2] n/a 1 to 702Sqn 2010. 3 grounded G.222 traded for 2nd 2012.[12]
75px B.L9 GAF N.22B Nomad 23x15px Australia utility transport 19 n/a
B.L11/11k/11Kh Boeing 737-8Z6 23x15px United States VIP transport 1 n/a
B.L11/11k/11Kh Boeing 737-4Z6 23x15px United States VIP transport 1 n/a
B.L13 Airbus A310-324 23x15px EU VIP transport 1 n/a Mainly for senior military officers.
75px B.L15 Airbus A319-115X CJ 23x15px EU VIP transport 1 1 Mainly for senior government officers. 1 Order A320 in 2013.
B.H11 Eurocopter EC725 23x15px EU utility/CSAR 0(+4) 4[13] 16 Plans.[14]
B.H6 Bell UH-1H Iroquois/Huey 23x15px United States utility/CSAR 18[2] n/a To be replaced by EC725.
B.H6Kh/6Kh2/6Ng Bell 412EP/SP 23x15px Canada VIP transport 8[2] n/a 2 Bell 412, 6 Bell 412EP.



Type Country of Origin Role Quantity Note
Air-to-air missiles
IRIS-T 23x15px Germany SRAAM 40+ on JAS-39 C/D.
Meteor (missile) 23x15px Germany BVRAAM ? on JAS-39 C/D (future).
AIM-9P-3/P-4/M-9 Sidewinder 23x15px 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 23x15px United States BVRAAM 100+ on F-16 ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D. C7 Delivered.
Python-4 Template:Country data Israel AAM 50+ on F-5 T.
Air-to-Surface Missiles/Rockets/Bombs
GBU-10F/B, -12E/B,-22 Paveway II 23x15px 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 23x15px United States GPS/INS Guided Bomb ? JAS-39 C/D(future), F-16 MLU(future).
GBU-38/B JDAM 23x15px United States GPS/INS Guided Bomb ? JAS-39 C/D(future), F-16 MLU(future).
Mk 81/Mk82/Mk84 23x15px 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 23x15px 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 23x15px 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 23x15px United States Air-to-Ground Missile 300+ on F-16 A/B/ADF/MLU, JAS-39 C/D.
RBS-15F Mk.2 23x15px Sweden (200 kg) Anti-ship missile 12 on JAS-39 C/D.
CRV-7 23x15px 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 23x15px 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 23x15px United States 30mm gun pod ? on F-5 E/F/T. Podded version of GAU-8 Avenger.
Surface to air defence systems
Oerlikon ADATS 23x16px  Switzerland laser-guided supersonic missile 4 Fixed emplacement/semi-mobile
Saab Bofors Dynamics RBS 70 Mk.2 23x15px Sweden Man-portable air-defence system (MANPAD) ?
QW-2 Vanguard II 23x15px China Man-portable air-defence system (MANPAD) ?
Rheinmetall Mauser Mk.30 mod.F 23x15px Germany Twin 30mm Anti Aircraft Artillery 8
Bofors 40mm L/70 23x15px Sweden 40mm Anti Aircraft Artillery ?
Type 74 23x15px China Twin 37mm Anti Aircraft Artillery ?
Air Search Radar, Weather Radar
Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 23x15px United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 2 RTADS I.
Alenia Marconi Systems Martello-743D 23x15px United Kingdom Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 4 RTADS l/ll.
Northrop Grumman AN/FPS-130X 23x15px United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3 RTADS lll.
Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-78 23x15px United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3 RTADS ll.[15]
Lockheed Martin AN/TPS-79 23x15px United States Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 1 RTADS ll.
Siemens DR-162 ADV 23x15px United States Short Range 2D Air Search Radar ?
Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-703 23x15px United States Mobile Long Range 3D Air Search Radar 3
Ericsson Giraffe-180/40 23x15px Sweden Mobile Medium Range 2D Air Search Radar 2+/2
Toshiba-ASR Template:Country data Japan Airport Surveillance Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics DWSR-88C 23x15px United States Weather Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics TVDR-3501C 23x15px United States Weather Radar ?
Enterprise Electronics TVDR-2500C 23x15px United States Mobile Weather Radar ?
KRONOS Radar Systems 23x15px Italy Air Search Radar ?
Avia Satcom C2ADS 23x15px Thailand Air Search Radar ?
Ground Weaponry
Cadillac Gage V150 Commando 23x15px United States 4x4 armored car 12 With 12.7mm and 7.62mm MG
Rheinmetall Condor 23x15px Germany 4x4 armored car 18 With 20mm and 7.62mm MG


Purchase Programme


  • Under the Air-to-air missile by Defense Technology Institute.[citation needed]
  • Under the Cruise missile ground attack and anti-ship plan by Defense Technology Institute.[citation needed]
  • Under the Man-portable air-defense systems plan by Defense Technology Institute.[citation needed]
  • Under the Anti-tank guided missile plan by Defense Technology Institute.[citation needed]

See also


  • Wieliczko, Leszek A. and Zygmunt Szeremeta. Nakajima Ki 27 Nate (bilingual Polish/English). Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2004. ISBN 83-89088-51-7.

External links