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The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF (Thai: กองทัพอากาศไทย; RTGSKong 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 has engaged in numerous major and minor conflicts. During the Vietnam War era, the RTAF was supplied with USAF-aid equipment.

Royal Thai Air Force
Emblem of the Royal Thai Air Force.svg
Emblem of the Royal Thai Air Force
Founded November 2, 1913; 104 years ago (1913-11-02)
Country Thailand
Allegiance HM The King of Thailand
Type Air Force
Size 45,000 Active personnel
288 Aircraft
Part of Royal Thai Armed Forces
HQ Don Muang Air Base, Bangkok
Colours Sky blue
March มาร์ชกองทัพอากาศ
(Royal Thai Air Force March)
Anniversaries 9 April 1937
(Royal Thai Air Force Day)
Engagements World War I
Franco-Thai War
World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Vietnamese border raids in Thailand
Thai–Laotian Border War
Commander-in-Chief Air Chief Marshal Johm Rungswang
Royal Thai Air force Flag Flag of the Royal Thai Air Force.svg
Unit Colour Royal Thai Air Force Unit Colour.svg
Roundel/Finflash Roundel of Thailand.svg Flag of Thailand.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 CT/4, PC-9, DA42
Transport C-130, BT-67, Nomad, ATR-72, 737-400/800, A319, A310, RRJ-95LR



In February 1911 Belgian pilot Charles Van Den Born was responsible for the first aircraft demonstration in Siam at Bangkok's Sapathum Horse Racing Course. King Rama VI was sufficiently impressed that on 28 February 1912 he sent three Army officers to France to learn to fly. After receiving their wings and qualification, the officers returned to Siam in November 1913, bringing with them eight aircraft: four Breguets and four Nieuport IVs). In March 1914, Thai aviation moved from Sapathum to Don Muang then north of Bangkok.

The Ministry of Defence placed the Siamese Flying Corps under the Army Engineer Inspector General Department. Prince Purachatra Jayakara, Commander of the Army Engineers, and his brother Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath, were instrumental in the development of the Royal Siamese Aeronautical Service as it was renamed in 1919. In 1937, it became an independent service known as the Royal Siamese Air Force. Two years later, when the kingdom's name was changed to Thailand, it became the Royal Thai Air Force. The Air Force during the years before the Second World War was seen as a moderately-well equipped force with relatively modern aircraft; a mixture of several French, American, and Japanese types.

During the French-Thai War, the Thai Air Force achieved several air-to-air-victories in dogfights 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 Shan States of Burma as somewhat reluctant allies of the Japanese and took part in the defense of Bangkok against allied air raids in the latter part of the war, achieving some successes against state-of-the-art aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and the B-29 Superfortress. During these times, the RTAF was actively supplied by the Japanese with Imperial Japanese Army Air Force aircraft such as the Ki-43 "Oscar," and the Ki-27 "Nate." Other RTAF personnel took an active part the anti-Japanese resistance movement. The Thai Air Force sent three C-47s to support the United Nations in Korean War. The Wings Unit, operating the C-47, also joined the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Along the border, the Thai Air Force launched many operations against communist forces, including the Ban Nam Ta Airfield Raid in Laos, and clashes between Thai and communist 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 controlEdit

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

The Royal Thai Air Force is commanded by the Commander of the Royal Thai Air Force (ผู้บัญชาการทหารอากาศไทย). The Royal Thai Air Force Headquarters is located in Don Muang Airbase, Bangkok, Thailand.

List of CommandersEdit


Hat Yai
Surat Thani
Chiang Mai
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Kamphang Saen
Khok Ka Thiem
Air bases of the Royal Thai Air Force

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
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 [1]
401 Light Attack Sqn L-39 Wing 4 Takhli To be replaced by T-50[2]
402 Elint Sqn Learjet 35 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 C/D Wing 7 Surat Thani Total 12 Gripens delivered (4 Gripen D and 8 Gripen C),[3] replacing F-5E/F.[4] [1]
702 Sqn Saab 340, S-100B Argus Wing 7 Surat Thani Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[5]
211 Fighter Sqn F-5T Tiger Wing 21 Ubon
231 Attack Sqn Alpha Jet Wing 23 Udorn
411 Fighter Sqn L-39 Wing 41 Chiang Mai
461 Transport Sqn 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 Security Force RegimentEdit

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.


The Royal Thai Air Force's newest frontline fighter; the 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 Lopburi in Lopburi 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.[6]
  • Wing 21
Interceptor wing based at RTAFB Ubon Ratchathani in Ubon Ratchathani Province.
  • Wing 23
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 Hat Yai in Songkhla Province.

Rank structureEdit

OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 Cadet Officer
                      No Insignia
จอมพลอากาศ พลอากาศเอก พลอากาศโท พลอากาศตรี พลอากาศจัตวา1 นาวาอากาศเอก นาวาอากาศโท นาวาอากาศตรี เรืออากาศเอก เรืออากาศโท เรืออากาศตรี นักเรียนนายเรืออากาศ
Marshal of the Air Force Air Chief Marshal Air Marshal Air Vice Marshal Air Comodore1 Group Captain Wing Commander Squadron Leader Flight Lieutenant Flying Officer Pilot Officer Air Cadet
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
                No insignia
พันจ่าอากาศเอกพิเศษ พันจ่าอากาศเอก พันจ่าอากาศโท พันจ่าอากาศตรี จ่าอากาศเอก จ่าอากาศโท จ่าอากาศตรี จ่าอากาศตรีกองประจำการ พลทหาร
Flight Sergeant
1st Class
Flight Sergeant
1st Class
Flight Sergeant
2nd Class
Flight Sergeant
3rd Class
Sergeant Corporal Leading Aircraftman Leading Aircraftman Airman


Current inventoryEdit

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
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Northrop F-5 United States fighter F-5E 30[7]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole A OCU / ADF 38[7]
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden multirole JAS 39C 7[7]
Alpha Jet France / Germany light attack 18[7]
Saab 340 AEW&C Sweden early warning and control S 100B 2[7] aircraft mounted with a Erieye radar
Piaggio P.180 Italy reconnaissance 1[7]
Diamond DA42 Austria surveillance 5[7]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 1[8]
Airbus A319 France VIP A319CJ 1[9]
Basler BT-67 United States transport 7[7] modified Douglas DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H 12[7]
Super King Air United States utility transport 90 1[7]
Saab 340 Sweden transport 4[7]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland transport 16[7]
Sikorsky S-92 United States VIP / Med Evac 3[10]
Eurocopter EC 725 France CSAR / utility 6 2 on order[7]
Bell UH-1 United States SAR / utility UH-1H 16[7]
Bell 412 United States utility 8[7]
Trainer Aircraft
Northrop F-5 United States conversion trainer F-5B/F 4[7]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16B 15[7]
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden conversion trainer JAS 39D 4[7]
Aero L-39 Czech Republic trainer 35[7]
Pilatus PC-9 Switzerland trainer 23[7]
Diamond DA42 Austria multi engine trainer 10[7]
KAI T-50 Republic of Korea fighter trainer T-50TH 12 on order[7]


Illustration of an AGM -65 Maverick
Name Origin Type Notes
Air-to-air missile
Python 4/3 Israel beyond-visual-range missile 120 obtained[11]
AIM-120C AMRAAM United States beyond-visual-range missile initial 50 missiles[11]
AIM-9E/J/P Sidewinder United States short range infrared homing missile 600 missiles obtained[11]
IRIS-T Germany short range infrared homing missile 40 units – employs a thrust vector control motor[11]
Air-to-surface missile
AGM-65D/G Maverick United States infrared imaging AGM 200 missiles obtained[11]

Aircraft insigniaEdit


1919 — 1940 1940 — 1941 1941 — 1945 1945 — present

Tail markingsEdit

1919 — 1941 1941 — 1945 1945 — present

See alsoEdit



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "THAI GRIPEN: GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES". October 31, 2015. 
  5. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Nanuam, Wassana (2016-02-11). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  7. ^ 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 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2017. 
  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. ^ a b c d e Trade Registers. Retrieved on 2015-05-18.



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

External linksEdit