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Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base

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.

Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base
Roundel of Thailand.svg
Part of Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)
Coordinates13°54′45″N 100°36′24″E / 13.91250°N 100.60667°E / 13.91250; 100.60667 (Don Muang RTAFB)
TypeAir Force Base
Site information
OwnerRoyal Thai Air Force
OperatorRoyal Thai Air Force
Controlled byRoyal Thai Air Force
ConditionMilitary Air Force Base
Site history
Battles/warsVietnam Service Medal ribbon.svg
Vietnam War
Airfield information
Summary
Elevation AMSL9 ft / 3 m
Coordinates13°54′45″N 100°36′24″E / 13.91250°N 100.60667°E / 13.91250; 100.60667Coordinates: 13°54′45″N 100°36′24″E / 13.91250°N 100.60667°E / 13.91250; 100.60667
Map
VTBD is located in Thailand
VTBD
VTBD
Location of Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03L/21R 12,139 3,700 Asphalt
03R/21L 11,482 3,500 Asphalt

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 UnitsEdit

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

In 1964 the United States Air Force (USAF) helped the RTAF establish a transport squadron of eight C-123 Providers there and also a squadron of 17 UH-34s.[1]

USAF use during the Vietnam WarEdit

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 UnitsEdit

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.[2] On 20 April 1961[3] six F-100s from the 510TFS/405FW based at Clark AB deployed to Don Muang in operation "Bell Tone".[4] 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.[2]: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.[2]: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.[2]: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.[5]

 
Royal Australian Air Force CAC Sabre; USAF C-133 and C-124 at Don Muang in June 1962

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.[1]: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.[1]:396

In June 1962 a detachment of four C-123s from the 777th Troop Carrier Squadron deployed to Don Muang.[2]:279 These aircraft largely provided transport to and from other RTAF bases.[1]:408

In July 1962, Detachment 10 was replaced by the 6010th Tactical Group.[2]:279

35th Tactical GroupEdit

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.[2]:279 The 35th Tactical Group consisted of the following units:

A detachment of USAF U-21s based at Don Muang supported MACT operations and in 1964 these were joined by two CV-2 Caribous.[1]:410

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.[2]:228[6]

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.[6]: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.[1]:409

631st Combat Support GroupEdit

 
F-102 from 509th FIS TDY to Don Muang RTAFB

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:

USAF withdrawal from Don MuangEdit

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.[7]

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.[1]:410

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  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 Bowers, Ray (1983). The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia: Tactical Airlift (PDF). U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office. p. 421-2. ISBN 9781782664208.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Futrell, Robert (1981). The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia: The Advisory Years to 1965 (PDF). Office of Air Force History. p. 279. ISBN 9789998843523.
  3. ^ Personal log book of one of the seven pilots from the 510TFS flying the deployment.
  4. ^ Davies, Peter. F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War. Osprey. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-84908-446-8.
  5. ^ Tilford, Earl (1980). Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia 1961–1975 (PDF). Office of Air Force History. p. 47. ISBN 9781410222640.
  6. ^ a b Van Staaveren, Jacob (2002). Gradual Failure: The Air War over North Vietnam 1965–1966 (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 48. ISBN 9781508779094.
  7. ^ 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.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit