Royal Thai Air Force

The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF (Thai: กองทัพอากาศไทย; RTGS: Kong 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
Royal Thai Air Force emblem
Founded2 November 1913 (1913-11-02)
Country Thailand
AllegiancePrayuth chan-ocha Prime minister
TypeAir Force
RoleAir defense
Air warfare
Size45,000 Active personnel
850 Aircraft
Part of 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 Maanat Wongwat[1]
Fuen Ronnaphagrad Ritthakhanee
Chalermkiat Vatthanangkun
Kaset Rojananil
Chalit Pukbhasuk
Itthaporn Subhawong
Prajin Juntong
Fin flash
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.[2]: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.[3]

Command and control

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 Commanders


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.

SquadronEquipmentWingRTAF BaseNotes
102 Fighter SqnF16ADF Wing 1Korat
103 Fighter SqnF-16A/B OCUWing 1Korat
201 Helicopter SqnBell 412, S-92Wing 2Khok Ka ThiemFormer Royal Guard
203 Helicopter SqnUH-1H, EC 725Wing 2Khok Ka ThiemSAR detachments at many locations.
To be replaced by EC 725 [4]
401 Light Attack SqnL-39Wing 4TakhliTo be replaced by T-50[5]
402 Elint SqnP.180 AvantiWing 4Takhli
403 Fighter SqnF-16AM/BMWing 4Takhli
501 Light Attack SqnFairchild AU-23Wing 5Prachuap Khiri Khan
601 Transport SqnC-130H/H-30Wing 6Don Muang
602 Royal Flight SqnA319, B737Wing 6Don MuangFormer Royal Guard
603 Transport SquadronATR72Wing 6Don Muang
604 Civil Pilot Training SqnPAC CT-4A,
Wing 6Don Muang
701 Fighter SqnJAS-39 C/DWing 7Surat ThaniTotal 12 Gripens delivered (4 Gripen D and 8 Gripen C),[6] replacing F-5E/F.[7]
702 SqnSaab 340,
S-100B Argus
Wing 7Surat ThaniSaab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[8]
211 Fighter SqnF-5 Super TigrisWing 21Ubon
231 Attack SqnAlpha JetWing 23Udorn
411 Fighter SqnL-39Wing 41Chiang Mai
461 Transport SqnBasler BT-67Wing 46PhitsanulokAlso conducts rainmaking flights.
561 Fighter Sqns-Wing 56Hat YaiForward operating base for 701 Fighter Sqn.
904 Aggressor SqnF-5E-Don MuangFormer unit of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Mahidol.
1st Flying Training SqnPAC CT/4EFlying Training SchoolKamphang SaenPrimary flight training.
2nd Flying Training SqnPilatus PC-9MFlying Training SchoolKamphang SaenBasic flight training.
3rd Flying Training SqnBell 206B (withdrawn 2006)Flying Training SchoolKamphang SaenHelicopter training.

Royal Thai Air Force Security Force Regiment

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 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
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.[9]
  • 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 Services

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.


Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Alpha Jet France / Germany light attack 19[10]
Northrop F-5 United States fighter F-5E 30[11]
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden multirole JAS 39C 7[11]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole A OCU / ADF 38[11]
Saab 340 AEW&C Sweden early warning and control S 100B 2[11] aircraft mounted with a Erieye radar
Saab 340 Sweden transport 4[11]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 1[12]
Airbus A319 France VIP A319CJ 1[13]
Basler BT-67 United States transport 7[11] modified Douglas DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland transport 16[11]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H 12[11]
Bell 412 United States utility 8[11]
Bell UH-1 United States SAR / utility UH-1H 16[11]
Sikorsky S-92 United States VIP / Med Evac 3[14]
Eurocopter EC 725 France CSAR / utility 8 4 on order[11]
Trainer Aircraft
KAI T-50 Republic of Korea fighter trainer T-50TH 4 8 on order[11]
Aero L-39 Czech Republic trainer 34[11]
Northrop F-5 United States conversion trainer F-5B/F 4[11]
Pilatus PC-9 Switzerland trainer 22[11]
Diamond DA42 Austria multi engine trainer 10[11]
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden conversion trainer JAS 39D 4[11]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16B 15[11]


Name Origin Type Notes
Air-to-air missile
Python 4/3 Israel beyond-visual-range missile 120 obtained[15]
AIM-120C AMRAAM United States beyond-visual-range missile initial 50 missiles[15]
AIM-9E/J/P Sidewinder United States short range infrared homing missile 600 missiles obtained[15]
IRIS-T Germany short range infrared homing missile 40 units – employs a thrust vector control motor[15]
Air-to-surface missile
RBS-15F Sweden anti-ship missile 25 missiles obtained[15]
AGM-65D/G Maverick United States infrared imaging AGM 200 missiles obtained[15]

Rank structure

NOTE:Rank on paper, not actually used in the Royal Thai Air Force.

OF-10OF-9OF-8OF-7OF-6OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1Cadet Officer
No Insignia
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
No insignia
Flight Sergeant
1st Class
Flight Sergeant
1st Class
Flight Sergeant
2nd Class
Flight Sergeant
3rd Class
Sergeant Corporal Leading Aircraftman Leading Aircraftman Airman

Aircraft insignia


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

Tail markings

1919 — 1941
1945 — present
1941 — 1945

See also



  2. "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.
  3. "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.
  4. "Thailand Orders Eurocopters EC725 for SAR Missions". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  5. "KAI will export T-50s to Thailand". 17 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. "THAI GRIPEN: GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES". 31 October 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  8. Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  9. Nanuam, Wassana (11 February 2016). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  11. "World Air Forces 2019". Flightglobal Insight. 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  12. "Royal Thai Air Force B737". Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  13. "A319 for VIPs". Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  14. "Thai military gets new S-92, Mi-17 helicopters". Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  15. 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.
    This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.