Like many other airforces, the Royal Thai Air Force also started the military flying service by sending a number of Officers to France to get their first flying training at the Nieuport company. This took place in January of the Budda year 2454 (1911). The first three officers returned to Siam in November 1913. At the same time Siam bought its first aircraft to equip the Army Aviation section which were 4 Nieuport monoplanes and 4 Breguet biplanes. The Army Aviation service was established on a rice field south of Bangkok. The three aviation pioneers were Major Luang Saksalyavudh, Captain Luang Arvudhsikikom, and First Lieutenant Thip Ketudat.
From this modest begining, the Aviation Unit continued to grow and eventually had to look for a new home to cope with its fast expansion. A site locally known as Don Muang was finally chosen. Relocation was completed on March 17, 1914. On March 27 of the same year, the unit was elevated by an order of the Ministry of War (Defence) to become the Army Air Corps. Since then March 27 has been recognised as the birthday of the Royal Thai Air Force.
In 1918 the expanding Air Corps gained the status of a division. Known as the Army Aviation Division, the unit which consisted of three wings remained under the Army until December 1921 when it was renamed the Air Division and was placed directly under the Ministry of War. The Division, which continued to grow by leaps and bounds, had its name changed again in 1935 to the Air Force Division. Two years later, it was proclaimed the Royal Thai Air Force, a separate service of the country's armed forces with five wings which was expanded to 11 wings by 1987.
After World War II, technical advancement in Western countries went so fast that it was practically impossible for the RTAF to catch up due to lack of fund and encouragement. Although its self-reliance programme was continued, the RTAF had to purchase most of its new aircraft from the West or acquire them through foreign military aid programmes.
1957 heralded the jet age forthe RTAF with the acquisition of T-33s and RT-33s under the United States Military Assistance Programme (MAP). After that, progress knew no boundary and the RTAF eventually evolved into a small compact fighting force.
The Royal Thai Air Force currently consist of 4 Air Divisions with 11 Wings. These 11 wings consist of 26 squadrons and one historical flight (Tango Squadron, based at the most northern airbase Chiang Mai).
After the Indo-China war of 1945, the Royal Thai Navy sped up its effort to develop the Naval Air Wing first by repairing the Sattahip runway and procuring a batch of light communications aircraft L 4 and twelve aircraft T 6 from the US plus 30 aircraft (Tiger Moth) from the United Kingdom, attack aircraft Fairy Firefly, 6 amphibious aircraft, communications aircraft Bonanza and Piper Cup Special. Apart from these, the RTN had plans to procure a number of helicopters for search and rescue missions at sea.
After several years of progressive development, the Naval Air Wing underwent a reorganisation and became a major unit under the direct command of the Royal Thai Navy on 17 July 1948 until it was closed down on 12 July 1951 for political reasons. All planes belonging to the Naval Air Wing were then placed under the Royal Thai Air Force based in Don Muang. Every seaman saw the end of the Naval Air Wing with affliction after 13 years of operation.
The Royal Thai Navy regained its naval wing when, on 18 October 1960, Admiral of the Fleet Sarit Thanarat, Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, agreed in principle for the Royal Thai Navy to have its own naval air unit for maritime defence support under the military assistance program from the U.S.
The Naval Air Unit was getting larger as it made significant progresses in its development. On 28 July 1971, it was renamed the Naval Air Station reporting directly to the Royal Thai Fleet. The Naval Air Station then comprised four Naval Air Squadrons.
On 14 May 1990 the Defence Ministry granted approval to the Royal Thai Navy to change the name from the Naval Air Station to the Naval Air Division. At present, the Division has two naval air wings under its command. Four squadrons serve under Wing One, and three squadrons under Wing Two. The Division also operates an aircraft rework facility center and U-tapao Naval Airbase which provide facilities to both the military and commercial aircraft for landing and take-off.
On 24 July 1996 the Royal Thai Navy increased the number of Naval Air Division personnel to accommodate the growing number of aircraft in the division including new acquisitions for HTMS Chakri Naruebet such as AV-8A(S) and S-70B Sea Hawks. Around this time, the Royal Thai Navy also procured eighteen A-7 Corsair and six S-76Bs. With increasing air assets, the Naval Air Division was allowed to establish another wing called Chakri Naruebet under its command with two squadrons serving under it.
Nowadays the Naval Air Division flies a modest inventory of helicopters and aircraft in reconnaissance, patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and search-and-rescue missions.
The oldest and largest of the military services, the Royal Thai Army traditionally served as the mainstay of the kingdom's defense system. The commander in chief and his large staff of military specialists, headquartered in Bangkok, directed the army in carrying out its mission. For tactical and administrative purposes, the army operated through four regional army commands. The First Army, headquartered in Bangkok, was responsible for the country's western and central provinces and the capital city. The northeastern quadrant was the territorial home of the Second Army, and its regional headquarters were in Nakhon Ratchasima. The region of the Third Army, with headquarters in Phitsanulok, consisted of the northern and northwestern parts of the kingdom. The Fourth Army's region was southern Thailand ; its headquarters were in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The RTA has formed an armored air cavalry regiment that included small helicopter and fixed-wing aviation components, which operate directly under army command. This aviation group has been experimenting with attack operations. Headquarters for army aviation is in Lop Buri located about 100 miles north of Bangkok. With an understanding of the importance of airmobile operations in today's warfighting doctrine, the RTA is modernizing its helicopter fleet with the acquisition of different types.
Late 2016 a small re-organisation within the Army at Lop Buri saw the Air Mobility Commands becoming Aviation Battalions, the General Support Aviation Battalion became the 41st Aviation Battallion and the Light Wing Aviation Battalion became 21st Aviation Battalion.
Royal Thai Survey Department
The Royal Thai Survey Department is a Special Services Group of Headquarters, Royal Thai Armed Forces tasked to conduct land and aerial survey, geodesy and geophysics works in Thailand.
In 1950 the Aerial Mapping Organization was established. One year later, the above mentioned organization elevated to the department level, with the cooperation of the United States of America, bound by the Mapping and Cooperative Agreement. Then, the Aerial Mapping Organization was incorporated into the Survey Department on May 12, 1954, and the Department was responsible for photogrammetric mapping since then. After that, the Ministry of Defense greatly adjusted its internal administrative structure in 1963. The Survey Department was transferred to be the Department under the Supreme Command Headquarters and its name was changed to the Royal Thai Survey Department, which has been used until the present.
The Royal Thai Police are the national police force of Thailand. The Royal Thai Police frequently is recognized as the fourth armed force of Thailand as their tradition, concept, culture, skill, and training are relatively same as the army and most of their officer cadets need to graduate from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School together with prospective cadets of the armed forces branches as a preparatory requirement before entering the Police Academy, while the constables endure paramilitary training similar to the army but with an additional focus on law enforcement.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is a cabinet ministry in the government of Thailand. The ministry is one of the oldest ministries in the government, tracing its existence to the 14th century. The ministry is responsible for the administration of agricultural policies, forestry, water resources, irrigation, promotion and development of farmers and cooperative systems, including agricultural manufacturing and products.
The Thailand Royal Rainmaking Project was initiated in November 1955 by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thai farmers repeatedly suffered the effects of drought. The king resolved to do something about it and proposed a solution to the dearth of rain: artificial rainmaking, or cloud seeding. In 1971, the government established the Artificial Rainmaking Research and Development Project within the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The program is run by the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agriculture Aviation.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is a cabinet ministry in the Government of Thailand. The ministry was founded in 2002. It has a wide variety of responsibilities. These include the protection of the nation's natural resources: water, oceans, minerals, and forests. It is also responsible for the protection and restoration of the environment.
The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand is a cabinet-level department in the Government of Thailand and has wide range of responsibilities.
On 30 January 2020, the Thai Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (moU) with the Kong Thap Bok Thai (RTA, Royal Thai Army). The objective of the Memorandum is to promote aviation co-operation between the two agencies with the aim of increasing disaster relief effectiveness. The DDPM purchased two Kamov Ka-32A-11BCs for USD 60 million, they were delivered in September 2019 under the supervision of the Army Aviation Centre in Lopburi.
The Thai Air Force system to designate aircraft and its serials is unique in the world and if you don't know this system it is hard to comprehend why some aircraft wear such a lot of numbers and what they mean. A Thai aircraft with a number combination like "B.Kh.19-25/38" / "40307" / "90020" is quite common, it only is a hard time when you want to note down the complete serial while the aircraft is flying. The noting down is further complicated for most spotters as the unique serial is written in the Thai language.
For example: An F-16A wears the RTAF serial number บ.ข.๑๙- ๒๕ / ๓๘ (B.Kh.19-25/38):
On the aircraft this serial is written in Thai characters. In publications the digits are written Roman style however.
The second number to identify an Air Force aircraft is its squadron code: Mostly a five-digit number is used in which the first three digits indicate the squadron the aircraft is flying for and the last two indicate a unique number within the squadron. The F-16A above is aircraft number 07 with the 403rd Squadron. This code is not unique for a single aircraft. Note that many aircraft like trainer aircraft and helicopters use a different code structure.
The third number often seen is a former American serial, like 90020 for FMS serial 90-7020 on the F-16.
Trainer aircraft generally use two different numbers for code, like "รร.09-37" / "09" in which "09" stands for the 9th aircraft of the type with the Air Force and "37" the last two of the delivery year (Thai).
Below an overview is presented of aircraft identifications used by the Royal Thai Air Force. When known also the period is presented when the aircraft type was active with the air force as well as the total number served.
ข - Khoh (Kh - Fighter)
|บ.ข.๑||B.Kh.1||Nieuport Type 13m2||2461-2470||1918-1927||4|
|บ.ข.๒||B.Kh.2||Nieuport Type 15m2||2461-2475||1918-1932||12|
|บ.ข.๓||B.Kh.3||Spad type 7, 13m2||2461-2474||1918-1931||33|
|บ.ข.๖||B.Kh.6||Bulldog II||2474- ?||1931-?||2|
|บ.ข.๗||B.Kh.7||Boeing 100 (P.12E)||2474- ?||1931-?||2|
|บ.ข.๘||B.Kh.8||Heinkel He.45||2474- ?||1931-?||1|
|บ.ข.๙||B.Kh.9||Hawk II||2477- ?||1934-?||12|
|บ.ข.๑๐||B.Kh.10||Hawk III||2478- ?||1935-?||62|
|บ.ข.๑๑||B.Kh.11||Hawk 75N||2480- ?||1937-?||12|
|บ.ข.๑๒||B.Kh.12||Ki-27 Otsu||2485- ?||1942-?||12|
|บ.ข.๑๓||B.Kh.13||Ki-43-2 Hayabusa||2486- ?||1943-?||24|
|บ.ข.๑๘ข||B.Kh.18Kh||F-5E -> F-5TH||2521-curr||1978-curr||42|
|บ.ข.๑๘ค||B.Kh.18Kh2||F-5F -> F-5THF||2521-curr||1978-curr||6|
ขฝ - Khoh/Foh (KhF - fighter/trainer)
จ - Jhao (J - Attack)
|บ.จ.๒||B.J.2||Ki-30 M103 Nagoya||2483-2494||1940-1951||25|
|บ.จ.๔||B.J.4||Fairey Firefly F Mk1,FR Mk1||2494-2498||1951-1955||12|
|บ.จ.๗||B.J.7||Alpha Jet A||2543-curr||2000-curr||20|
|บ.จล.๙||B.JL.9||GAF Nomad N22B||2525-2559||1982-2016||19|
ชอ - ThOr
ต (T - Observation/Reconnaisance)
|บ.ต.๑||B.T.1||P.54 Survey Prince IIIA||2496-2503||1953-1960||1|
|บ.ต.๒||B.T.2||Cessna O-1A, E, G Birddog||2510-2533||1967-1990||54|
|บ.ตฝ.๒๐||B.TF.20||Diamond DA42M MPP||2563-curr||2019-curr|
|บ.ตล.๒||B.TL.2||RC-47A, B, C, D, Basler BT-67||2530-curr||1987-curr||6|
|บ.ตล.๗||B.TL.7||IAI Arava EW M201TH||2523-2558||1980-2015||3|
|บ.ตล.๙||B.TL.9||GAF N22B Nomad||2532-2559||1989-2016||3|
ท (Th - Bomber)
|บ.ท.๑||B.Th.1||Breguet 14A, 14B||2452-2480||1909-1937||5|
|บ.ท.๓||B.Th.3||Martin 139WSM B-108||2480-2524||1937-1981||6|
ทอ (ThOr - Bomber)
ธ (Th - Utility/Liaison)
|บ.ธ.๑||B.Th.1||Helio U-10A, B, D||2506-2529||1963-1986||20|
ผท (PhTh - Aerial mapping)
|บ.ผท.๑||B.PhT.1||Cessna 411A||2525- ?||1982-?||1|
|บ.ผท.๒||B.PhT.2||Be Queen Air B80||2525-2529||1982-1986||1|
|บ.ผท.๒ก||B.PhT.2K||Be Queen Air A80||2525-2532||1982-1989||1|
|บ.ผท.๓||B.PhT.3||Be King Air E90||2525-?||1982-?||1|
ฝ - Foh (F - Trainer)
|บ.ฝ.๑||B.F.1||Nieuport Type 23m2||2461- ?||1918-?||12|
|บ.ฝ.๒||B.F.2||Nieuport Type 18m2||2461- ?||1918-?||12|
|บ.ฝ.๓||B.F.3||Piper PT-1||2471- ?||1928-?||1|
|บ.ฝ.๔||B.F.4||Avro 504N||2473- ?||1930-?||12|
|บ.ฝ.๖||B.F.6||Tachikawa Ki-36||2485- ?||1942-?||44|
|บ.ฝ.๗||B.F.7||Miles Magister Mk.I||2490-2495||1947-2952||20|
|บ.ฝ.๘||B.F.8||AT-6A, B, C, D, F, G||2491-2517||1948-1974||220|
|บ.ฝ.๑๐||B.F.10||DH.82A Tiger Moth Mk2||2494-2504||1949-1961||34|
|บ.ฝ.๑๑||B.F.11||T-33A Shooting Star||2498- ?||1955-?||46?|
|บ.ฝ.๑๔||B.F.14||Cessna T-41D (R172E)||2511-curr||1968-curr||13|
พ (Ph - civil)
ร (R - Glider)
|บ.ร.๑||B.R.1||Hoffman H-36 Dimona||2526-2537||1983-1994||10|
Kuabkum (K - Controll)
ล - Loh (L - Transport)
|บ.ล.๑||B.L.1||Beechcraft C-45B, C-45F||2490-2502||1947-1959||7|
|บ.ล.๖||B.L.6||Swearingen Merlin IVA||2521-2525||1978-1982||2|
|บ.ล.๙||B.L.9||GAF N22B Nomad||2525-2559||1982-2016||19|
ว (W - UAV)
|บ.ว.๑||B.W.1||Slyeye Type R4E-30||? - ?||? - ?||6|
ส (S - Liaison)
|บ.ส.๑||B.S.1||Fairchild 24J, 24K||2481-2498||1938-1955||7|
|บ.ส.๒||B.S.2||Rearwin M9000KRT Deluxe||2481-2498||1938-1955||2|
|บ.ส.๓||B.S.3||Piper L-4J, L-4H||2490-2502||1947-1959||38|
|บ.ส.๓ก||B.S.3K||Piper PA-11 Cub Special||2492-2505||1949-1962||2|
|บ.ส.๔||B.S.4||Stinson L-5, L-5B||2490-2502||1947-1959||38|
|บ.ส.๕||B.S.5||Beechcraft M35 Bonanza||2494-2497||1951-1954||2|
|บ.ส.๖||B.S.6||Grumman Widgeon JRF.5||2494-2499||1951-1956||6|
ฮ - Hoh (H - Helicopter)
|ฮ.๑||H.1||Westland Dragonfly srs.1A||2493-2497||1950-1954||3|
|ฮ.๓||H.3||Sikorsky S-55 (H-19A)||2497-2508||1954-1965||8|
|ฮ.๔||H.4||Sikorsky S-58 (H-34B)||2505-2519||1962-1976||65|
|ฮ.๔ก||H.4K||Sikorsky S-58T Twinpack||2505-2546||1962-2003||19|
|ฮ.๕||H.5||Kaman HH-43B Huskie||2505-2513||1962-1970||4|
|ฮ.๖||H.6||Bell UH-1H Huey||2511-2564||1968-2021||37|
ฮผฑ (HPhT - Mapping Helicopter)t
|ฮผฑ.๑||HPhT.1||Bell 206B Jet Ranger II||2525-2530||1982-1987||1|
Around 2010 the Thai Navy started to use its own type designation system, comparable to the system used by the Air Force.
The names are deduced from the primary role of each aircraft
The Navy uses a serial system which always includes the operational squadron. Often the FMS serial number, construction number or Bureau Numbers are also carried on the aircraft. For example:
1407/159288 is an A-7E of 104sq U Tapao
2313 is a Westland Lynx 203sq U Tapao
ขล (KL - Fighter)
จต (HT - Attack)
ตช (TCh - Observation)
ตผ (TPh - Anti surface ships)
|ฮ.ตผ.๑||H.TPh.1||Super Lynx 300||2548-curr||2005-curr||2|
ธก (TK - Administration)
ลล (LL - Transport)
ลว (LW - Reconnaissance)
ปด (PD – Anti submarine)
Also the Army has a designation system of its own, based on the name given by the manufacturer, the role the aircraft is used in and the letter for aircraft (B) or helicopter (H).