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.
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.: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.
The RTAF consists of headquarters and five groups, which are: command group, combat group, support group, education and training group, and special services group.
- 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.
- 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.
- Combat group
- The support group provides engineering, communications and electronics, ordnance, transportation, quartermaster, medical services support, civil engineering and transportation.
- The education and training group coordinates and supervises all air force training programmes.
- 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.
The Royal Thai Air Force Combat Group is divided into 11 wings plus a training school, plus a few direct-reporting units.
- RTAF Directorate of Air Operations Control
- RTAF Security Force Command
- RTAF Space Operation Center
- Navaminda Kasatriyadhiraj Royal Thai Air Force Academy
- Flying Training School
- composed of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Flying Training Squadrons. Based at RTAFB Kamphang Saen in Nakhon Pathom Province
- Wing 1
- Wing 2
- Helicopter wing providing utility/transport and search and rescue. Normally based at RTAFB Khok Kathiam in Lopburi Province
- Wing 3
- Unmanned aerial vehicle wing based at RTAFB Watthana Nakhon in Sa Kaeo Province.
- Wing 4
- Wing 5
- Transport and pecial 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.
- Wing 21
- Wing 23
- 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
The following squadrons are currently active with the Royal Thai Air Force.
|101st Fighter Squadron||-||Wing 1||Korat|
|102nd Fighter Squadron||F16ADF||Wing 1||Korat|
|103rd Fighter Squadron||F-16A/B OCU||Wing 1||Korat|
|201 Helicopter Squadron||Bell 412, S-92||Wing 2||Khok Ka Thiam||Former Royal Guard|
|202 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 
|206 UAV Squadron||Aerostar BP, RTAF U-1||Wing 3||Watthana Nakhon|
|401 Light Attack Squadron||L-39, T-50TH||Wing 4||Takhli||To be replaced by T-50|
|402 Elint Reconnaissance Squadron||P.180 Avanti||Wing 4||Takhli|
|403 Fighter Squadron||F-16AM/BM||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,
|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), replacing F-5E/F.|
|702 Air Control Squadron||Saab 340,
|Wing 7||Surat Thani||Saab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202|
|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.|
RTAF Security Force Command
The RTAF Security Force Command (Thai: หน่วยบัญชาการอากาศโยธิน) 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. 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.
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.
|FY||Million (baht)||% GDP|
NOTE:Rank on paper, not actually used in the Royal Thai Air Force.
|Marshal of the Air Force||Air Chief Marshal||Air Marshal||Air Vice Marshal||Air Commodore||Group Captain||Wing Commander||Squadron Leader||Flight Lieutenant||Flying Officer||Pilot Officer||Air Cadet|
|Sergeant||Corporal||Leading Aircraftman||Leading Aircraftman||Airman|
|1919 — 1940
1945 — present
|1940 — 1941||1941 — 1945|
|1919 — 1941
1945 — present
|1941 — 1945|
- Royal Thai Air Force Museum
- Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters
- Military of Thailand
- Royal Thai Army
- Royal Thai Navy
- Royal Thai Police
- "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.
- "Royal Thai Air Force Organization". rtaf.mil.th. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- Nanuam, Wassana (11 February 2016). "Air force readies to go digital". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- "Thailand Orders Eurocopters EC725 for SAR Missions". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
- "KAI will export T-50s to Thailand". 17 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "THAI GRIPEN: GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES". 31 October 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
- "New era for air force with modern jets". 22 February 2011.
- Reed Business Information Limited. "SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "'บิ๊กแฟร้งค์' นำบิ๊กทัพฟ้าร่วมงานวันสถาปนาหน่วย 'อากาศโยธิน' ครบ 69 ปี". thairath.co.th (in Thai). 27 December 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "World Air Forces 2021". FlightGlobal. 4 December 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
- "RTAF decommissions two F-16 and five L-39". www.janes.com.
- "Royal Thai Air Force B737". airfleets.net. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- "A319 for VIPs". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- "A320 for VIPs". airfleets.net. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "A340 for VIPs". airfleets.net. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- "SSJ100 for VIPs". airfleets.net. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- Trade Registers Armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved on 2015-05-18.
- RTAF White Paper 2020 (PDF). Royal Thai Air Force. 20 February 2020. pp. 10–11.
- "Thailand's Budget in Brief Fiscal Year 2021". Budget Bureau. 2 October 2020. p. 85. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
- Media related to Royal Thai Air Force at Wikimedia Commons
- RTAF Official website (English version)
- Royal Thai Air Force Whitebook on Gripen program (Thai)
- Royal Thai Air Force Press Release on Gripen program (Eng)[permanent dead link]
- Royal Thai Air Force VDO on Gripen program (Thai)
- Royal Thai Air Force Museum Many Historical Aircraft Here (English Page available)
- Reports with drawings and pictures about the Royal Thai Air Force
- Early history of the Airports of Thailand Authority
- Japanese Aircraft In Royal Thai Air Force and Royal Thai Navy Service During WWII at j-aircraft.com