Royal Thai Air Force

The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF 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-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. 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 each fiscal year, the Royal Thai Air Force has allocated budget as table below.
Fiscal yearBudget % of GDP
201839,931 Millions0.243%
201941,609 Millions0.237%
202042,539 Millions0.240%

Command and control

The Royal Thai 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.

List of Commanders


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


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. 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
101 Fighter Squadron-Wing 1Korat
102 Fighter SquadronF16ADF Wing 1Korat
103 Fighter SquadronF-16A/B OCUWing 1Korat
201 Helicopter SquadronBell 412, S-92Wing 2Khok Ka ThiemFormer Royal Guard
203 Helicopter Squadron-Wing 2Khok Ka Thiem
203 Helicopter SquadronUH-1H, EC 725Wing 2Khok Ka ThiemSAR detachments at many locations.
To be replaced by EC 725
401 Light Attack SquadronL-39Wing 4TakhliTo be replaced by T-50
402 Elint SquadronP.180 AvantiWing 4Takhli
403 Fighter SquadronF-16AM/BMWing 4Takhli
404 SquadronRTAF U-1Wing 4Takhli
501 Light Attack SquadronFairchild AU-23Wing 5Prachuap Khiri Khan
601 Transport SquadronC-130H/H-30Wing 6Don Muang
602 Royal Flight SquadronA319, B737Wing 6Don MuangFormer Royal Guard
603 Transport SquadronATR72Wing 6Don Muang
604 Civil Pilot Training SquadronPAC CT-4A,
Wing 6Don Muang
701 Fighter SquadronJAS-39 C/DWing 7Surat ThaniTotal 12 Gripens delivered, replacing F-5E/F.
702 Air Contro SquadronSaab 340,
S-100B Argus
Wing 7Surat ThaniSaab 340 70201 and S-100B Argus AEW 70202
211 Fighter SquadronF-5 Super TigrisWing 21Ubon
231 Attack SquadronAlpha JetWing 23Udorn
411 Fighter SquadronL-39Wing 41Chiang Mai
461 Transport SquadronBasler BT-67Wing 46PhitsanulokAlso conducts rainmaking flights.
561 Fighter Squadron-Wing 56Hat YaiForward operating base for 701 Fighter Sqn.
904 Aggressor SquadronF-5E-Don MuangFormer unit of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Mahidol.
Flying Training SquadronPAC CT/4EFlying Training SchoolKamphang SaenPrimary flight training.
Flying Training SquadronPilatus PC-9MFlying Training SchoolKamphang SaenBasic flight training.
Flying Training SquadronBell 206B Flying Training SchoolKamphang SaenHelicopter training.

Royal Thai Air Force Security Force Command

The RTAF Security Force Command 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, Combat Rescue Officer, 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, one separated air base protection Battalions and one separated Anti-aircraft Battalions are station in each air bases.


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


Rank structure

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

Aircraft insignia


Tail markings