Royal Thai Air Force
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Royal Thai Air Force

Royal Thai Air Force

Kong Thap Akat Thai
Emblem of the Royal Thai Air Force.svg
Badge of the Royal Thai Air Force
Founded2 November 1913; 107 years ago (1913-11-02)
Country Thailand
AllegianceKing Vajiralongkorn
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Aerial defence
Size47,000 Active personnel
900 Aircraft
Part ofMinistry of Defence
Royal Thai Armed Forces
HeadquartersDon Muang Air Base, Bangkok
MarchThai: ?
"Royal Thai Air Force March"
Anniversaries9 April 1937
(Royal Thai Air Force Day)
Commander-in-ChiefAir Chief Marshal Airbull Suthiwan
Fuen Ronnaphagrad Ritthakhanee
Chalermkiat Vatthanangkun
Kaset Rojananil
Chalit Pukbhasuk
Itthaporn Subhawong
Prajin Juntong
RoundelRoundel of Thailand.svg
Fin flashFin Flash of Thailand.svg
FlagFlag of the Royal Thai Air Force.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

The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF (Thai: ; 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.


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), which formed the nucleus for the Aviation Section of the Army Engineering Division. In March 1914, they moved from Sapathum to Don Muang, north of Bangkok and it became the Royal Siamese Flying Corps under the Department of the Army Engineer Inspector General.

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 on 19 March 1919. In October 1936, it became an independent service and was renamed the Royal Siamese Air Force in March 1937. Two years later, when the kingdom was renamed Thailand, it became the Royal Thai Air Force. The Air Force during the years before the Second World War was a moderately-well equipped force made up of a mixture of 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-47 Skytrains 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. In addition to the F-5E and F-5F fighter-bombers, OV-10C Bronco counterinsurgency aircraft, transports, and helicopters were added to the RTAF inventory. In 1985 the United States Congress authorized the sale of the F-16 fighter to Thailand.

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 each fiscal year, the Royal Thai Air Force has allocated budget as table below.[2]

Fiscal year Budget (Baht) % of GDP
2018 39,931 Millions 0.243%
2019 41,609 Millions 0.237%
2020 42,539 Millions 0.240%


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

The RTAF consists of headquarters and five groups, which are: command group, combat group, support group, education and training group, and special services group.[3]

  1. The headquarters group in bangkok consists of:royal thai air force headquarters support groups, royal flight aircraft administrative center, royal flight helicopter administrative center, air warfare center, office of public sector development and office of intellectual development.
  2. Command group consist of RTAF secretariat, directorate of administrative service, personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, civil affairs, information and communications technology, finance, inspector general, office of RTAF comptroller, internal audit, safety and judge advocate.
  3. Combat group
  4. The support group provides engineering, communications and electronics, ordnance, transportation, quartermaster, medical services support, civil engineering and transportation.
  5. The education and training group coordinates and supervises all air force training programmes.
  6. The special service group is responsible for research and development, the welfare of air force personnel, air police and coordinates the activities of Thai civil aviation with those of the air force.

Combat Group

An F-5E with the 904 Aggressor Squadron

The Royal Thai Air Force Combat Group is divided into 11 wings plus a training school, plus a few direct-reporting units.[3]

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 Khok Kathiam in Lopburi Province
  • Wing 4
Light attack / Interceptor wing based at RTAFB Takhli in Nakhon Sawan Province.
A Basler BT-67 cargo airlifter
  • 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 in 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.[4]
  • 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.
Royal Thai Air Force F-16 descends after being refuelled by a KC-135
  • 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
Forward operating base at RTAFB Hat Yai in Songkhla Province.


The following squadrons are currently active with the Royal Thai Air Force.[3]

Squadron Equipment Wing RTAF Base Notes
101 Fighter Squadron - Wing 1 Korat
102 Fighter Squadron F16ADF Wing 1 Korat
103 Fighter Squadron F-16A/B OCU Wing 1 Korat
201 Helicopter Squadron Bell 412, S-92 Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiam Former Royal Guard
203 Helicopter Squadron - Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiam
203 Helicopter Squadron UH-1H, EC 725 Wing 2 Khok Ka Thiam SAR detachments at many locations.
To be replaced by EC 725 [5]
401 Light Attack Squadron L-39, T-50TH Wing 4 Takhli To be replaced by T-50[6]
402 Elint Reconnaissance Squadron P.180 Avanti Wing 4 Takhli
403 Fighter Squadron F-16AM/BM Wing 4 Takhli
404 Squadron RTAF U-1 Wing 4 Takhli
501 Light Attack Squadron Fairchild AU-23 Wing 5 Prachuap Khiri Khan
601 Transport Squadron C-130H/H-30 Wing 6 Don Muang
602 Royal Flight Squadron A319, B737 Wing 6 Don Muang Former Royal Guard
603 Transport Squadron ATR72 Wing 6 Don Muang
604 Civil Pilot Training Squadron PAC CT-4A,
Diamond DA42
Wing 6 Don Muang
701 Fighter Squadron JAS-39 C/D Wing 7 Surat Thani Total 12 Gripens delivered (4 Gripen D and 8 Gripen C),[7] replacing F-5E/F.[8][9]
702 Air Control Squadron Saab 340,
S-100B Argus
Wing 7 Surat Thani Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202[10]
211 Fighter Squadron F-5 Super Tigris Wing 21 Ubon
231 Attack Squadron Alpha Jet Wing 23 Udorn
411 Fighter Squadron L-39 Wing 41 Chiang Mai
461 Transport Squadron Basler BT-67 Wing 46 Phitsanulok Also conducts rainmaking flights.
561 Fighter Squadron - Wing 56 Hat Yai Forward operating base for 701 Fighter Sqn.
904 Aggressor Squadron F-5E - Don Muang Former unit of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Mahidol.
1st Flying Training Squadron PAC CT/4E Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Primary flight training.
2nd Flying Training Squadron Pilatus PC-9M Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Basic flight training.
3rd Flying Training Squadron Bell 206B (withdrawn 2006) Flying Training School Kamphang Saen Helicopter training.
Royal Thai Air Force is located in Thailand
Surat Thani
Surat Thani
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Kamphang Saen
Kamphang Saen
Air bases of the Royal Thai Air Force

RTAF Security Force Command

The RTAF Security Force Command (Thai: ) is a Division size unit in the Royal Thai Air Force. It has been in existence since 1937. They are based near Don Mueang International Airport. The RTAF Security Force Command is the main ground forces which providing Infantry for protecting air bases and high value assets, Special forces, Combat Controller (CCT), Combat Rescue Officer (CRO), Pararescue, Tactical Air Control Party, and anti-hijacking capabilities.[11] Royal Thai Air Force Security Force Command consist of 3 main Regiments and multiple support units. Additionally,air base protection Battalions and Anti-aircraft Battalions are each assigned to every air base of the RTAF.

Royal Thai Air Force Bases

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 the RTAF took over 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 (Ubon, Udorn) proved costly and exceeded Thai needs; they were turned over to the Department of Civil Aviation for civil use. 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.

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

A Royal Thai Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon
The Royal Thai Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripen
A Thai S-92 for the Royal flight
Royal Thai Air Force A319
Royal Diamond DA42 at Khon Kaen


Illustration of an AGM -65 Maverick

Rank structure

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

OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 Cadet Officer
Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force Air Chief Marshal Air Marshal Air Vice Marshal Air Commodore Group Captain Wing Commander Squadron Leader Flight Lieutenant Flying Officer Pilot 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
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Special Flight Sergeant 1st Class Flight Sergeant 1st Class Flight Sergeant 2nd Class Flight Sergeant 3rd Class Sergeant Corporal Leading Aircraftman Leading Aircraftman 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


Roundel of Thailand.svg Roundel of the Royal Thai Air Force (1940-1941).svg Roundel of the Royal Thai Air Force (1941-1945).svg
1919 -- 1940
1945 -- present
1940 -- 1941 1941 -- 1945

Tail markings

Fin Flash of Thailand.svg Fin Flash of the Royal Thai Air Force (1941-1945).svg
1919 -- 1941
1945 -- present
1941 -- 1945

See also



  1. ^ "CINCPAC Command History 1975" (PDF). Commander in Chief Pacific. 7 October 1976. Retrieved 2019.This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ RTAF White Paper 2020 (PDF). Royal Thai Air Force. 20 February 2020.pp. 10-11
  3. ^ a b c "Royal Thai Air Force Organization". Retrieved 2020.
  4. ^ Nanuam, Wassana (11 February 2016). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ "Thailand Orders Eurocopters EC725 for SAR Missions". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ "KAI will export T-50s to Thailand". 17 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "THAI GRIPEN: GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES". 31 October 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ "'' '?' 69 ". (in Thai). 27 December 2016. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "World Air Forces 2020". Flightglobal Insight. 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "Royal Thai Air Force B737". Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ "A319 for VIPs". Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d e f 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 links

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