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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
Founded2 November 1913; 105 years ago (1913-11-02)
AllegianceHis Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn
TypeAir Force
RoleAir defense
Air warfare
Size45,000 Active personnel
288 Aircraft
Part ofEmblem of the Ministry of Defence of Thailand.svg Royal Thai Armed Forces
HQDon Muang Air Base, Bangkok
ColoursSky blue
(Royal Thai Air Force March)
Anniversaries9 April 1937
(Royal Thai Air Force Day)
Commander-in-ChiefAir Chief Marshal Chaipruek Didyasarin
Fuen Ronnaphagrad Ritthakhanee
Chalermkiat Vatthanangkun
Kaset Rojananil
Chalit Pukbhasuk
Prajin Juntong
Royal Thai Air force FlagFlag of the Royal Thai Air Force.svg
Unit ColourRoyal Thai Air Force Unit Colour.svg
Roundel/FinflashRoundel of Thailand.svg Flag of Thailand.svg
Aircraft flown
AttackAlpha Jet, F-16A/B Block 15 OCU
Saab 340 AEW&C
FighterJAS-39C/D, F-16AM/BM, F-5E/F
HelicopterUH-1, Bell 412, S-92, EC725
InterceptorF-16 ADF
ReconnaissanceSaab 340B ELINT/COMINT, DA42 MPP, P.180 Avanti
TrainerCT/4, T-41D, PC-9, DA42, L-39, T-50TH
TransportC-130, BT-67, ATR-72, 737-400/800, A319/A320, A340-500, SSJ-100-95LR, AU-23



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 the Korean War. The Wings Unit, operating the C-47, also joined the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Following the end of the Vietnam War in April 1975 the Thai Air Force took possession of 117 aircraft of the former South Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian air forces that had evacuated to Thailand.[1]:469 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.


For fiscal year 2018 (FY2018) the air force's budget is 39,931 million baht.[2]

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 Former Royal Guard
203 Helicopter Sqn UH-1H Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiem SAR detachments at many locations.
To be replaced by EC 725 [3]
401 Light Attack Sqn L-39 Wing 4 Takhli To be replaced by T-50[4]
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
601 Transport Sqn C-130H/H-30 Wing 6 Don Muang
602 Royal Flight Sqn A319, B737 Wing 6 Don Muang Former 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),[5] replacing F-5E/F.[6] [1]
702 Sqn Saab 340, S-100B Argus Wing 7 Surat Thani Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[7]
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.[8]
  • 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.

Directorate of Medical ServicesEdit

First set up in 1913 in the same year as the Air Force, providing nursing services only, and over the years has gradually expanded. It operates Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital and Royal Thai Air Force Hospital in Bangkok, as well as smaller hospitals at each wing. The directorate has made a teaching agreement with the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University to train students at Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital, accepting about 30 students per academic year.

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 Commodore1 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
Two Royal Thai Air Force F-16 aircraft fly in formation March 17, 2009, as a part of the aerial missions of Exercise Cope Tiger in Korat, Thailand.
Saab JAS 39 Gripen of the Royal Thai Air Force.
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
Dornier Alpha Jet Germany light attack Alpha Jet A 18[9]
Northrop F-5 United States fighter F-5E 30[10][9]
Saab JAS 39 Gripen Sweden multirole JAS 39C 7[9]
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole A OCU / ADF 38[9]
Saab 340 AEW&C Sweden early warning and control S 100B 2[9] aircraft mounted with a Erieye radar
Piaggio P.180 Italy reconnaissance 1[9]
Diamond DA42 Austria surveillance 5[9]
Airbus A340 France VIP / transport A340-500 1
Saab 340 Sweden transport 4[9]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 1[11]
Airbus A319 France VIP A319CJ 1[12]
Sukhoi Superjet 100 Russia VIP 3[13][14][15]
Basler BT-67 United States transport 7[9] modified Douglas DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
Beechcraft Super King Air United States utility transport 90 1[9]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland transport 16[9]
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H 12[9]
Bell 412 United States utility 8[9]
Bell UH-1 Iroquois United States SAR / utility UH-1H 16[9]
Sikorsky S-92 United States VIP / Med Evac 3[16]
Eurocopter EC 725 France CSAR / utility 8 4 on order[17]
Trainer Aircraft
KAI T-50 Golden Eagle Republic of Korea fighter trainer T-50TH 4 8 on order[9]
Aero L-39 Albatros Czech Republic trainer 35[9]
Northrop F-5 United States conversion trainer F-5B/F 4[9]
Pilatus PC-9 Switzerland trainer 23[9]
Diamond DA42 Austria multi engine trainer 10[9]
Saab JAS 39 Gripen Sweden conversion trainer JAS 39D 4[9]
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16B 15[9]


Illustration of an AGM -65 Maverick
Name Origin Type Note
Air-to-air missile
AIM-120C5/C7 AMRAAM United States beyond-visual-range missile Equip with F-16AM/BM, F-16ADF & Jas-39
Meteor European Union beyond-visual-range missile Future user, will be equip with Jas-39
Derdy Israel beyond-visual-range missile Future user, will be equip with F-5ST
AIM-9E/J/P Sidewinder United States short range infrared homing missile Equip with F-5, F-16, Jas-39, Alpha Jet, L-39ZA/ART, T-50
IRIS-T Germany short range infrared homing missile Equip with F-16AM/BM & Jas-39
Python 4/3/5 Israel short range infrared homing missile Equip with F-5E/F/ST
Air-to-surface missile
AGM-65D/G Maverick United States Air-to-surface missile Equip with F-16AM/BM & Jas-39
RBS-15F Sweden Anti-ship missile Equip with Jas-39
General-purpose bomb
GBU-12 Paveway II United States laser-guided bomb
GBU-16 Paveway II United States laser-guided bomb
GBU-24 Paveway III United States laser-guided bomb
Joint Direct Attack Munition United States laser-guided bomb GBU-31, GBU-32, GBU-38
Mark 81 United States Unguided bomb
Mark 82 United States Unguided bomb
Mark 83 United States Unguided bomb
Mark 84 United States Unguided bomb

Aircraft insigniaEdit


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

Tail markingsEdit

1919 — 1941
1945 — present
1941 — 1945

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "CINCPAC Command History 1975" (PDF). Commander in Chief Pacific. 7 October 1976. Retrieved 13 May 2019.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "THAILAND'S BUDGET IN BRIEF FISCAL YEAR 2018". Bureau of the Budget (Thailand) (Revised ed.). p. 84. Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Thailand Orders Eurocopters EC725 for SAR Missions". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  4. ^ "KAI will export T-50s to Thailand". 17 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "THAI GRIPEN: GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES". 31 October 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  7. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  8. ^ Nanuam, Wassana (11 February 2016). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Archived from the original on 2 December 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Royal Thai Air Force B737". Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  12. ^ "A319 for VIPs". Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  13. ^ "Sukhoi Civil Aircraft to Deliver the Third SBJ to the Royal Thai Air Force". Superjet International. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  14. ^ Parameswaran, Prashanth (23 June 2018). "Sukhoi Superjet Delivery Spotlights Russia-Thailand Military Cooperation". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Thai military gets new S-92, Mi-17 helicopters". Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  17. ^ Dominguez, Gabriel (24 October 2018). "RTAF receives two more H225M helos". IHS Jane's. Archived from the original on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.



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

External linksEdit