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For the civil use of the facility after July 1974, see Ubon Ratchathani Airportmarker
Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base is a Royal Thai Air Force facility and is the home of Wing 21 of the RTAF 2nd Air Division. It is located in East-Central Thailand, near the city of Ubon Ratchathanimarker, in the Ubon Ratchathani Provincemarker. It is approximately 305 miles (488 kilometers) North-East of Bangkokmarker. The Laotian border is about 40 miles (60 kilometers) directly East.

The RTAF 211sq "Eagles" fly the Northrup F-5E/F "Tiger II"" fighter aircraft from Ubon. The facility is also being used as a civil airport.

Royal Australian Air Force use of Ubon

On 31 May 1962 the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) sent a detachment of eight CAC-27 Sabre fighters to Ubon RTAFB. This detachment was later expanded and designated as No. 79 Squadron. The Australian facilities were known as RAAF Ubon.

The mission of No. 79 Squadron was to assist the Thai and Laotian governments in actions against communist insurgents during the early years of the Vietnam War. With the deployment of United States Air Force fighters to Ubon, the unit also performed joint exercises and provided air defense for the USAF attack aircraft and bombers based at Ubon.

No. 79 Squadron did not, however, fly any operations over nearby Cambodiamarker, South Vietnam or Laosmarker. The unit's strength during the entire period was about 150-200 men.

Sir Edmund Hillary visited the base on 25 January 1967.

The Squadron lost Sabre A94-986 aircraft due to engine failure at 1043h on 3 January 1968. The aircraft crashed on approach into farms outside the town (1.2 nautical miles from the runway at 249 degrees true). The pilot, Pilot Officer Mark McGrath was killed. A three year old Thai girl named Prataisre Sangdang later died from burns sustained in the accident. The homes of Mr Nuan, Mr Krasam, Mr Thongkam and Mr Tue were totally destroyed. That of Mr Sok was partly destroyed. Ten pigs belonging to Mr Sok were killed as were 15 belonging to Mr Oh. Outbuildings beloning to Mr Wiruch and to Mrs Sim were also damaged.

The Squadron re-deployed to Butterworthmarker in Malaysiamarker on 31 August 1968.

United States Air Force use of Ubon

From 1965 to 1974, the base was a front-line facility of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. Ubon was the location for TACAN station Channel 51 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.

The APO for Ubon was APO San Francisco, 96304

8th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 8th Tactical Fighter Wing arrived at Ubon on 8 December 1965 from George AFBmarker, Californiamarker as part of the US deployment of forces for Operation Rolling Thunder and became the host unit.

At Ubon, the 8th TFW's mission included bombardment, ground support, air defense, interdiction, and armed reconnaissance. The operational squadrons of the 8th TFW were:

Squadron deployed from 33d TFW Eglin AFBmarker Florida. Transferred to 432d TFW at Udorn RTAFBmarker. Replaced by 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron, also from 33d TFW 25 May 1968 - 5 July 1974 (F-4D Tail Code: FA)

McDonnell F-4D-29-MC Phantom Serial Number 66-0234 of the 476th Tactical Fighter Squadron with laser guided bombs on a mission north.
This aircraft survived the war and eventually was sent to AMARC for scrapping 29 September 1989
On 23 April 1966, the 8th TFW scored its first MiG kills of the Vietnam War, shooting down two MiG-17 fighters. By the end of June 1966, after only six months in the theater, the wing had flown more than 10,000 combat sorties, achieving a 99 per cent sortie rate for which they received many commendations.

Beginning in May 1967, new F-4D aircraft from the 4th TFW at Eglin AFBmarker were delivered to Ubon, re-equipping the 433d, 497th and the 555th TFSs. This gave the wing the distinction of being the first in Southeast Asia to be operationally equipped with F-4Ds.

In May 1968, the wing was the first to use laser-guided bombs in combat. During its final years of combat, the 8th TFW used B-57s for night attacks, AC-130 gunships for ground support and armed reconnaissance, and F-4Ds for fast-forward air control, interdiction, escort, armed reconnaissance, and other special missions.

After North Vietnam invaded the Republic of Vietnam in Mar 1972, the 8th TFW was augmented by additional F-4 units. To make room for these forces, the B-57 squadron moved to the Philippinesmarker. The wing continued combat in Vietnammarker until mid-Jan 1973, in Laosmarker until 22 Feb 1973, and in Cambodiamarker until 15 Aug 1973.

The last scheduled F-4 training flight occurred on 16 Jul 1974, and on 16 Sep the wing moved without personnel or equipment to Kunsan ABmarker, South Koreamarker, where it absorbed resources of the 3d TFW.

Blackman and Robin

On 30 September 1966, Colonel Robin Olds took command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. A lack of aggressiveness and sense of purpose in the wing had led to the change in command. The 44-year-old colonel also set the tone for his command stint by immediately placing himself on the flight schedule as a rookie pilot under officers junior to himself, then challenging them to train him properly because he would soon be leading them. In December Olds was re-united with Col. Chappie James, and they became an effective command team (popularly nicknamed "Blackman and Robin"). James was named 8th TFW Vice Commander in June 1967.

F-104C Starfighers At Ubon

F-104Cs of the 476th TFS head into the Vietnam war zone from Ubon RTAFB, 1966.
Note the M-117 750-pound bombs under their wings.
F-104Cs of the 476th TFS
In the early months of 1966, a MiG threat to USAF aircraft over North Vietnam began to emerge, with the supersonic MiG-21 beginning to appear. In response, a contingent of Lockheed F-104C Starfighters from the 476th Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at George AFBmarker, Californiamarker were deployed to Udorn, arriving on 6 June 1966, and being assigned to the 8th TFW. An additional 12 F-104Cs joined the 8th TFW on July 22.

The F-104s were initially involved in escort missions in support of Republic F-105D Thunderchief strike aircraft hitting targets in North Vietnam. They were also involved in escorts of EF-105F Wild Weasel. One of the problems was that the F-104Cs were not initially equipped with electronic countermeasures gear, and had to rely on F-105s for warnings of lock-ons from enemy radar facilities. However, the mere presence of these F-104Cs managed to keep enemy MiGs away from the strike packages.

On 1 August, two F-104Cs were lost to enemy Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in a single day, and it was concluded that it was too dangerous to operate the F-104C in support of Wild Weasel missions, especially when they were not equipped with ECM gear. It was decided to withdraw the F-104C from support of strike missions over North Vietnam, unless and until the MiG threat reappeared. By late August, these F-104Cs were involved in air strikes against targets in both Laosmarker and South Vietnam, exchanging its role of air superiority for that of ground attack. However, losses were heavy, with three F-104s being downed by ground fire and SAMs in the next couple of months. The F-104C was not very well suited for the ground attack role, being incapable of carrying an adequately large offensive load. In addition, it could not carry out operations in bad weather and could not sustain a lot of battle damage.

By late 1966, all F-104s in Southeast Asia had received APR-25/26 ECM gear and once again began flying escort missions over North Vietnam. The Starfighter took part in Operation Bolo on 2 January 1967, which was a successful attempt to lure North Vietnamese fighters into combat. However, the F-104s were not used to actively entice and engage MiGs, but were used instead to protect the egressing F-4 Phantom II force. The F-4 Phantoms scored heavily during this engagement.

The Air Force decided to replace these F-104Cs by more efficient McDonnell F-D Phantomss starting in July 1967. The 4th TFS from Eglin AFBmarker equipped with F-4Ds deployed to Ubon, and were redesignated as the 435th TFS. The F-104Cs rotated back to the states and where sent to the Puerto Rican Air National Guard

The 435th remained with the 8th TFW at Ubon until 8 August 1974. It's F-4D tail code was "FO".

Special Operations Missions

Lockheed C/AC-130A-LM Hercules Serial 55-0029 of the 16th Special Operations Squadron, May 1974.
This aircraft survived the war and eventually was sent to AMARC for scrapping 15 November 1994

With the arrival of the 16th Special Operations Squadron in October 1968 flying the AC-130 gun ships ("Spectre") the wing's mission was greatly enhanced. When the bombing of North Vietnam was halted in November 1968, the wing's mission turned to interdiction missions against the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The squadron also flew the AC/NC-123 beginning in December 1969. The aircraft did not carry side-firing weapons, but rather had a very long, nose fairing that housed a forward-looking radar and two internal, aluminum weapons dispensers for CBU bomblets. Only two of these aircraft were converted from the basic C-123 Provider. This weapon system proved less effective than its counterpart, the AC-130, and operations with it were discontinued in June 1970

During 1970 the squadron recorded destroying nearly 15,000 trucks, earning them a new title of "top truck killers". On 22 July 1974, the 16th SOS was transferred to Korat RTAFB. In December 1975, the 16 SOS began its move to Hurlburt Field, Florida, with the first gunship arriving on 12 December 1975. By the end of January 1976, all the men and women of the 16 SOS had left Thailand.

Tactical Bombardment Missions

  • 13th Bombardment 1 October 1970 - 24 December 1972 (B-57G Tail Code: FS/FK)
13th Bomb Squadron Martin B-57G from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base
The 13th Bomb Squadron was assigned from October 1970 until December 1972, flying the B-57G The 13th flew mostly night interdiction missions against North Vietnamese truck traffic on the Ho Chi Minh trail. using AC-130 gunships for ground support and armed reconnaissance, and F-4Ds for fast-forward air control, interdiction, escort, armed reconnaissance, and other special missions.

After North Vietnam invaded the Republic of Vietnam in March 1972, the 8th Wing was augmented by additional F–4 units from the United States. To make room for these forces, the B–57 squadron moved to the Philippinesmarker.

1972 Operation Linebacker

On 10 May 1972, as part of the first day of strikes during Operation Linebacker, the wing destroyed the Paul Doumer Bridge near Hanoi. Using laser-guided bombs, the wing was able to put the bridge out of commission. On 13 May 1972 the wing using laser-guided bombs, attacked the Thanh Hoa Bridge, destroying this vital supply line of the North Vietnamese.

F-4E squadrons temporarily deployed from CONUS to Ubon during the Constant Guard buildups also participated in the Linebacker raids, flying primarily as chaff bombers and strike escorts, in Operation Linebacker II in December 1972, and in support of the Lon Nol government in Cambodiamarker:

  • 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina
    • 334th Tactical Fighter 11 April 1972 - 8 July 1972 (Tail Code: SA); 25 September 1972 - 12 March 1973 (Tail Code: SJ)
    • 336th Tactical Fighter 12 April 1972 - 15 September 1972 (Tail Code: SJ); 9 March 1973 - 7 September 1973
    • 335th Tactical Fighter 8 August 1972 - 31 December 1972 (Tail Code: SJ)

8th TFW Decorations At Ubon

Tenant Units

Tenant units at Ubon included the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron flying the OV-10. The 23rd's "Rustic FAC's" flew missions in support of ground forces, interdiction missions and armed convoy support.

1982 Comm Sq (AFSC) providing Air Traffic Control services for the Ubon terminal approach area.

Det 17, 10th Weather Squadron (MAC)

Another tenant, the 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group performed a vital support role in crash rescue, aircrew recovery and evacuation missions.

From March to October 1967 EC-121 Warning Star aircraft of the College Eye Task Force were based at Ubon.

The 222nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Royal Thai Air Force, performed their mission with T-28, C-47 and HH-34 helicopters.

USAF Withdrawal

With the Paris Peace Accord of 1973 ending the war in Vietnam, the need for large numbers of USAF aircraft in Thailand was reduced. The wing continued combat in Laosmarker until 22 February 1973, and in Cambodiamarker until 15 August 1973. F–4 augmentation forces were released in September 1973.

In mid-1974 the wing began to lose personnel, aircraft, and units. The last scheduled F–4 training flight occurred on 16 July 1974, and on 16 September the wing and most of its components moved without personnel or equipment to Kunsan Air Basemarker, South Koreamarker, where the wing absorbed resources of the 3d TFW that had moved without personnel or equipment to the Philippines

On 16 September 1974 the USAF forces at Ubon were deactivated and the facility turned over to the Thai government.

Major USAF Aircraft based at Ubon

Ubon USAF Unit Emblem Gallery

Image:8th Fighter Wing.png|8th Tactical Fighter Wing
Image:476tfs-patch.jpg|476th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Image:Pacific Air Forces.png|USAF Pacific Air Forces
Image:13th Air Force.png|13th Air Force
Image:7-13-airforce-patch.jpg|7/13 Air Force
Image:7th Air Force.png|7th Air Force

See also


  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Glasser, Jeffrey D. (1998). The Secret Vietnam War: The United States Air Force in Thailand, 1961-1975. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786400846.
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • The Royal Thai Air Force (English Pages)
  • Royal Thai Air Force - Overview

External links

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