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The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF ( ) is the air force of the Kingdom of Thailandmarker. As of 2008, the Commander of the Air Force is Itthaporn Subhawong.


In February 1911 the Belgianmarker pilot Charles Van Den Born displayed the first aircraft in Thailandmarker at the Sa Pathum Horse Racing Course. The Thai authorities were impressed enough by the display that on 28 February 1913 they dispatched three officers to learn to fly in Francemarker, a leading aviation country.

The three officers (Major Luang Sakdi Sanlayawut (Sunee Suwanprateep), Captain Luang Arwut Sikikorn (Long Sinsuk) and First Lieutenant Tip Ketuthat) learned to fly and on 2 November 1913 returned to Thailand with eight aircraft (four Breguets and four Nieuports). They are today regarded as the forefathers of the Royal Thai Air Force. In March of the next year they moved from Sa Pathum airfield to Don Muangmarker.

The Ministry of Defense put the early air force 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 Aeronautical Service, a forerunner to the Air Force.

During the French-Thai War, the Thai Air Force scored several air-to-air-victories against the Vichy France 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 American air attacks during the latter part of the war; individual RTAF personnel also assisted the anti-Japanese resistance. After World War II, the Thai Air Force sent three C-47 to support the United Nations in Korean War. The victorious Wings Unit, operating C-47, also joined the US Force in Vietnam War. Along the border, Thai Air Force launched many campaign against the communists, such as Ban Nam Ta Airfield Raid in Laosmarker, and clashes 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 Thais and foreigners during the 2003 Phnom Penh riots in Cambodiamarker.

Command and Control

The Royal Thai Air Force is commanded by the Commander of the Royal Thai Air Force (ผู้บัญชาการทหารอากาศไทย) currently Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn Subhawong, who was appointed in 2008. The Royal Thai Air Force Headquarters is located in Don Muang Airbase, Bangkokmarker, Thailandmarker.

List of Commanders


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 Bangkokmarker performs the usual general staff functions, including planning and directing operations of the combat elements.
  2. The logistics support group provides engineering, communications, ordnance, transportation, quartermaster, and medical services support.
  3. The education group coordinates and supervises all air force training programmes.
  4. 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.
  5. The operational units of the air force are organised into two functional elements: a tactical air command structured and equipped for conventional warfare and an aerial security force trained and geared for counterinsurgency and other internal security missions.

In 1987 the tactical air command had a combat force of one squadron committed to forward ground attack, two squadrons of fighter-interceptors also used for armed reconnaissance, a separate reconnaissance squadron that also served in a training role, three transport squadrons, one utility squadron, two helicopter squadrons, and one training squadron.

By the late 1990s the RTAF Air Power was composed of four regional Air Divisions and a Flying Training School.

  • The First Air Division (AD) has its air bases in Bangkok area,

  • The Second Air Division is located in the eastern part of Thailand

  • The Third Air Division is in the central and northern-provinces

  • The Fourth Air Division has its bases in the long stretch of the southern provinces.

  • The security force consists of seven counterinsurgency squadrons, equipped with helicopter gunships, and other light aircraft suitable for counterinsurgency operations. Airfield security is provided by four battalions of troops trained in perimeter defence tactics.


The Royal Thai Air Force is divided into 4 divisions plus a training school, plus a few direct-reporting units. Each division is then subdivided into wings, with a total 2-3 wings each division.

  • 1st Air Division
* The 1st Air Division composes of two wings, the 2nd Wing and the 6th Wing.
: * The 2nd Wing is a rotary aviation wing that is used for basic utility needs and transport as well as search and rescue (SAR) operations. This wing is normally based at RTAFB Lop Buri in Lop Buri Provincemarker
: * The 6th Wing is a non-combat wing used for a variety of functions including transport, mapping, communications and surveying. This wing is based at RTAFB Don Muang / Bangkok.

  • 2nd Air Division
* The 2nd Air Division composes of three wings, the 1st Wing, the 21st Wing, and the 23rd Wing.
: * The 1st Wing is an attack wing based at RTAFB Korat in Nakhon Ratchasima Provincemarker.
: * The 21st Wing is an attack wing based at RTAFB Ubon Ratchathani in Ubon Ratchathani Provincemarker.
: * The 23rd Wing is a light attack wing based at RTAFB Udon in Udon Thani Provincemarker.

  • 3rd Air Division
* The 3rd Air Division composes of three wings, the 4th Wing, the 41st Wing, and the 46th Wing. Another wing, the 42nd Wing, is reported to exist.
: * The 4th Wing is a light attack / fighter wing based at RTAFB Takhli in Nakhon Sawan Provincemarker.
: * The 41st Wing is a light attack wing based at RTAFB Chiang Mai in Chiang Mai Provincemarker.
: * The 46st Wing is a transport / rainmaking wing based at RTAFB Phitsanulok in Phitsanulok Provincemarker.

  • 4th Air Division
* The 4th Air Division composes of three wings, the 7th Wing, the 53rd Wing, and the 56th Wing.
: * The 7th Wing is an interceptor and attack wing based at RTAFB Surat Thani in Surat Thani Provincemarker.
: * The 5th Wing is a transport / observation wing based at RTAFB Prachuap Khiri Khan in Prachuap Khiri Khan Provincemarker.
: * The 56th Wing is a currently forming wing based at RTAFB Hatyai in Songkhla Provincemarker.

  • Flying Training School
* The Flying Training School composes of three squadrons, the 1st Flying Training Squadron, 2nd Flying Training Squadron, and the 3rd Flying Training Squadron. The school is based at RTAFB Kamphang Saen in Nakhon Pathom Provincemarker

Royal Thai Air Force Commando Company

This 100 man unit, part of the Royal Thai Air Force's Special Combat Operations Squadron, has been in existence since the late 1970s. They are based near Don Muang Airportmarker and provide anti-hijacking capabilities. They have three assault platoons, each divided into two smaller sections.


The following squadrons are currently active with the Royal Thai Air Force and their assigned Wing and equipment.
Squadron Wing Equipment Location Notes
201 Helicopter Squadron (Royal Guard) 2nd Wing Bell 412 RTAFB Khok ka thiem
203 Helicopter Squadron 2nd Wing Bell UH-1H RTAFB Khok ka thiem SAR detachments at RTAFB Chiang Mai, RTAFB Korat/Nakhon Ratchasima, RTAFB Bangkok, RTAFB udon, RTAFB ubon, RTAFB surat and RTAFB hat yai
102 Fighter Squadron 1st Wing Lockheed Martin F-16ADF RTAFB Korat
103 Fighter Squadron 1st Wing Lockheed Martin F-16A/B RTAFB Korat
601 Transport Squadron 6th Wing Lockheed Martin C-130H/H-30 RTAFB Bangkok
602 Royal Flight Squadron (Royal Guard) 6th Wing Airbus A310-300, A319, Boeing 737-800 RTAFB Bangkok
603 Transport Squadron 6th Wing Alenia G.222(3), ATR72-500(3),4th on order HS-748-208 (one at least still in service as of mid October 2009, RTAFB Bangkok
604 Civil Pilot Training Squadron 6th Wing CT-4A, T-41D RTAFB Bangkok
211 Fighter Squadron 21st Wing Northrop F-5T Tigres RTAFB Ubon Ratchathani
231 Attack Squadron 23rd Wing Dornier/Dassault Alpha Jet A RTAFB Udon Thani
401 Light Attack Squadron 4th Wing Aero L-39ZA/ART Albatros RTAFB Takhli
402 Elint Squadron 4th Wing Learjet 35, IAI Arava RTAFB Takhli
403 Fighter Squadron 4th Wing Lockheed Martin F-16A/B RTAFB Takhli
411 Fighter Squadron 41st Wing Aero L-39ZA/ART Albatros RTAFB Chiang Mai
461 Transport/Rainmaking Squadron 46th Wing GAF Nomad, Basler BT-67 RTAFB Phitsanulok
701 Fighter Squadron 7th Wing Northrop F-5B/E/F RTAFB Surat Thani To be replaced by Gripens.
501 Attack Squadron 5th Wing AU-23A Peacemaker RTAFB Prachuap Khiri Khan The former 531 Sqn was redesignated 501 Sqn on 1st of April 2007
904 Aggessor Squadron - Northrop F-5E RTAFB Bangkok Former unit of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Mahidon, now an aggressor unit.
Tango Squadron - - RTAFB Chiang Mai Historical aircraft unit, not controlled by the Royal Thai Air Force
1st Flying Training Squadron Flying Training School Pacific Aerospace PAC CT/4E RTAFB Kamphang Saen Primary flight training squadron
2nd Flying Training Squadron Flying Training School Pilatus PC-9M RTAFB Kamphang Saen Basic flight training squadron
3rd Flying Training Squadron Flying Training School Bell 206B(struck off charge 01 October 2006) RTAFB Kamphang Saen Rotary aviation training squadron

Royal Thai Air Force Bases

The Royal Thai Air Force maintains a number of modern bases from which it conducts its administrative, transport, and training operations. The bases, which were constructed between 1954 and 1968, have permanent buildings and ground support equipment.

All but one were part of the network of airfields built and used by United States forces until their withdrawal from Thailand in 1976. Consolidating the equipment left by the departing units in accordance with government-to-government agreements, the Thai air force assumed use of the installations at Takhlimarker and Nakhon Ratchasima .

In the late 1980s, these bases and Don Muang Air Basemarker outside Bangkokmarker, which the air force shares with civil aviation, remains the primary operational holdings.

Maintenance of the facilities at other bases abandoned by the United States proved too 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 Airportmarker. The RTAF also had large air fields and facilities at Nakon Ratchasima Ubon Ratchathanimarker, and Takhlimarker.

Aircraft inventory

Historic Aircraft

Historic and remarkable aircraft of Royal Thai Air Force.

Photo gallery

Image:F-5T.jpeg|Royal Thai Air Force F-5T standing-by on the tarmac.Image:Rtaf f16adf 102 analayo.jpg|RTAF F-16 Block 15ADF on Children's Day 2006 (January 14, 2006) at Don Mueng AFB.Image:Rtaf f16.jpg|RTAF F-16 Block 15OCUs in flight.Image:Analayo korsakul mix rtaf airborne.jpg|Photo of L-39ZA/ART, Alphajet A, F-16A, and AU-23A in flight for the air show on children's day 2007.Image:Rtaf uh-1h csar children day 2007.jpg|RTAF UH-1H picking up a downed pilot in the CSAR demonstration mission in Children's Day 2007 at Don Muang Airport.Image:F-5andF-15.JPEG|RTAF F-5Eand USAF F-15, parked on the flight line during Exercise COPE THUNDER '84.


News about Royal Thai Air Force procurement program.

Combat and Trainer Aircraft

JAS 39 Gripen.
The 20th Fighter Aircraft of Royal Thai Air Force.
  • New fighter procurement program - As it is known in Thailand as RTAF 20th fighter program, RTAF studied three models of the new fighter to replace its aging Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters. Requirements were for twelve aircraft with an expected delivery date in 2011. Fighters being examined for the purchase were the American Lockheed Martin F-16C/D block 50/52, the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKIT, and the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen.

On 16 October 2007, leaked information indicated that a decision had been reached to acquire twelve Gripens. A source said to Reutersthat the F16 had been preferred, but American legislation prevents sales to countries whose governments are overthrown. However, this is incorrect as there is no U.S. arms embargo on Thailand, showed by the fact that Thailand has recently awarded a US company a large contract for modernizing its fleet of military transport aircraft.

On a press conference on 17 October, the decision to buy six JAS 39 Gripen (version C/D), with an option for six more, was presented by Air Chief MarshalChalit Pookpasuk. Twelve JAS 39 Gripen, two Saab 340ErieyeAEW&C, and one Saab 340, training, technology transfer, and a number of RBS-15anti-ship missileswill be delivered to RTAF in two phases:

first phase: consists of six JAS 39 Gripen and one Saab 340 Erieye from 2008 to 2012.second phase: consists of six JAS 39 Gripen, one Saab 340 Erieye, and one Saab 340 from2013 to 2017.

On 8 Jan 2008, cabinet approved the budget for the first phase. The deal, worth 19 billion Baht, consists of six JAS 39 Gripen: two single-seat C models and four dual-seat D model along with support, training, and spare parts. The offset includes one Saab 340 Erieye, one Saab 340, Datalink system, and 92 Master-degrees scholarships for Thai students to study in Swedenmarker.The first three aircraft will be delivered in January 2011 and another three in March 2011. Saab 340and Saab 340Erieyewill be delivered in 2010.

On 11 February 2008, the Gripen agreement was signed at FMV in Swedenmarker, mark the start of the first batch.

  • Indigenously developed trainer - On 5 Nov 2007, the new trainer prototype developed by Royal Thai Air Force was officially commissioned in the ceremony led by Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pookpasuk. The 30-million-Baht project was started two years ago, B.ThO.2 is the licensed reengineering of Aermacchi SF.260MT that once service in Thai Air Force. This prototype will be used for testing and researching for the next model RTAF-6 that aims to be a primary trainer for Thai Air Force Flying School, Kamphang Saen and 604 sqn. for civilian training.

  • Multi-engine trainer - Royal Thai Air Force signed contact to buy 6 DA42 Twin Star to meet its requirement of twin-engine training.

Transport Aircraft and Helicopter

  • C-130 upgrade - Rockwell Collins has received a second-phase contract from Thai Aviation Industries to provide a communications, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management upgrade for six Royal Thai Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130 transports. The companies are upgrading a further six C-130s for Thailand under an earlier award.

  • New helicopter for Royal Flight - The Royal Thai Air Force has become the latest head-of-state customer to fly a Sikorsky S-92 VIP helicopter, as Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. On 17 October 2007, RTAF announced purchasing three of the VIP aircraft to transport the Thai Royal Family.

  • Personnel transport aircraft - Royal Thai Air Force also buy 4 ATR-72-500 to replace its aging Avro 748 transport. Both types are expects to commission on 2009.

See also


  1. Royal Thai Air Force Museum Historic Painting
  2. Sveriges Television, Thailand to buy Gripen (Swedish).
  3. Bangkok Post, Air force to get Gripen jet fighters
  4. International Herald Tribune Sweden's sale of fighter jets to Thailand generates controversy
  5. Ny Teknik, (Swedish)
  6. Bangkok Post Chalit insists purchase of Swedish jets appropriate, also the best deal.
  7. MCOT News Chalit Cabinet gives green light to buy Swedish jet fighters.
  8. Flight International Thai cabinet approves budget for Saab Gripen fighters.
  9. Gripen International Gripen agreement between Sweden and Thailand signed.
  10. RTAF News กองทัพอากาศประสบผลสำเร็จในการสร้างเครื่องบินต้นแบบ บ.ชอ.๒ (Thai)
  11. Diamond Aircraft Industries Royal Thai Air Force chooses 6 DA42 for it's training program
  12. Flight International Contracts
  13. Yahoo Royal Thai Air Force Purchases Three VIP S-92(R) Helicopters
  14. ATR ATR registers Record Year of Orders with 113 new Aircraft

External links

In service
On order
Trainer Aircraft
Pacific Aerospace CT/4
basic prop trainer
24 were purchased, at least 3 crashed.
Cessna T-41D Mescalero
basic prop trainer
For civil training. Due to be replaced.
Pilatus PC-9
advanced prop trainer
Cockpit and avionic were upgraded by Thai Aviation Industry.
Diamond DA42
advanced prop trainer
Delivery in mid 2009.
Combat Aircraft
Saab JAS 39 Gripen
multirole fighter
First 6 Gripens will be delivered in 2011. Another 6 Gripens will be delivered in 2013-2017.
Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon
multirole fighter
F-16A Block 10OCU
F-16A Block 15OCU
F-16A Block 15ADF
F-16B Block 15OCU/15ADF
Two additional F-16 Block 10OCU for spare parts reclamation.
Undergo structural upgrade to extended flight hours in Falcon UP programme by Thai Aviation Industry. Potentially to be upgraded with MLU programme to extend service life to 2025.
Able to launch AIM-120 AMRAAM.
Dual-seat trainers. Includes 1 dual-seat ADF version.
Northrop F-5
F-5T Tigris
F-5E Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
Upgraded by Israel, armed with Python 4 missile.
To be replaced by new JAS 39C Gripen in 2011.
Dual-seat training version of Northrop F-5.To be replaced by JAS 39D Gripen.
Aero L-39 Albatros
light strike aircraft/trainer
Westernized version of the Aero L-39 Albatros, equipped with Israeli avionics and AIM-9P.
Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet
light strike aircraft/trainer
Alpha Jet A
Ex-Luftwaffe. Five airframe use for spare. One aircraft crashed.
Pilatus AU-23A Peacemaker
light strike aircraft/utility aircraft
Armed version of the Pilatus PC-6. EX-USAF
GAF Nomad
surveillance and patrol aircraft
Nomad N.22B
More than 10 completed service-life extension by Thai Aviation Industry.
Learjet 35
patrol aircraft
Learjet 35A
1 crash during training.
Israel Aircraft Industries Arava
patrol aircraft
IAI 201
1 airframe stored.
Saab 340
S-100B Argus
First Saab 340 and S-100B Argus will be delivered in 2010. Another Argus will be delivered in 2013. Equipped with Erieye radar.
Transport aircraft
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
tactical transport
Underwent avionic and structural upgrade by Thai Aviation Industry.
Basler BT-67
tactical transport
Re-built version of Douglas DC-3 Dakota. used for aerial firefighting and cloud seeding. one written in a crash in August 2006.
Alenia G.222
tactical transport
3 additional airframes stored at Don Mueang RTAFB, used by 603 Sqn. Alenia has demonstrated its latest version of the G.222, the Alenia C-27J recently to the Thai military.
Avro 748
short range transport
748 Series-2
One airframe stricken from fleet after a wheels up landing in 2005, used by 603 Sqn. To be replaced by ATR-72.
Boeing 737
main royal family carrier
B737-8Z6 (B737-800)
Boeing 737
royal family carrier
B737-4Z6 (B737-400)
Airbus A310
royal family carrier
Mainly used by military officer.
Airbus A320
royal family carrier
A-319-115X CJ
Mainly used by Government officer.
Bell UH-1 Iroquois
utility helicopter/CSAR
Soon to be replaced.
Sikorsky S-92 Superhawk
royal family carrier
Delivery in 2010.
Bell 412
royal family carrier and VIP/VVIP transport

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