Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base (Korat RTAFB) is a base of the Royal Thai Air Force. It is located in in central Thailand, located approximately 157 miles (250 km) northeast of Bangkok and about 5 miles (8 km) south of Nakhon Ratchasima (also known as Khorat or Korat), the third largest city in Thailand.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the airfield was jointly operated as a civil airport for Nakhon Ratchasima. This was ended with the opening of Nakhon Ratchasima Airport in the early 1990s.
102 Squadron flies 15 F-16A-15ADF and 1 F-16B-15ADF Fighting Falcon air defense airplanes acquired from the USAF and delivered to the RTAF in 2003 and 2004.These airplanes were acquired under the code name Peace Naresuan IV.
103 Squadron flies 8 F-16A and 4 F-16B acquired under the code name Peace Naresuan 1,5 F-16A(out of 6 delivered) under the code name Peace Naresuan 11,3 F-16A and 4 F-16B acquired from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and delivered in late 2004.All F-16s are the block 15 version.
A detachment of 1 UH-1H Irouquois helicopter from 203 Squadron,Wing 2 is also at Korat.
Cope Tiger involves air forces from the United States, Thailand and Singapore , as well as U.S. Marines deployed from Japan.US Navy aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln(in 2005)and Japan(in 2007)have also been involved on Cope Tiger. The flying training portion of the exercise promotes closer relations and enables air force units in the region to sharpen air combat skills and practice interoperability with U.S. Forces. Pilots fly both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training missions.
American pilots fly A/OA-10A aircraft since 2006 from 25 Fighter Squadron,51 Fighter Wing 'Assam Draggins'F-15C/D/E Eagles , F/A-18C Hornets(f/A-18E/F Super Hornets , F-16C Fighting Falcons , E-3B Sentry Sentry Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), and KC-135,,Sikorsky MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
Singapore forces fly F-5E and F-16A/B Fighting Falcons,Lockheed KC-130B Hercules,Grumman E-2C Hawkeye,Boeing CH-47SD Chinook and Eurocopter AS-532UL Couger.
More than 1,100 people participate, including approximately 500 U.S. servicemembers and 600 servicemembers from Thailand and Singapore.
Over the last few years,Cope Tiger has widened to include CSAR(Combat Search and Rescue) assets and in 2007 for the first time RTAFB Udon Thani was also used as a base during this exercise.These included a C-130E Hercules from 36 Airlift Squadron,374 Airlift Wing(based at Yokoya AB,Japan)in 2006,and a G-222 and a C-130H from the RTAF in 2007.
Since 2002 at least Unites States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet fighters have used Khorat as a base during Cobra Gold exercises.
Under Thailand's "gentleman's agreement" with the United States, Korat, and the other Royal Thai Air Force Bases used by the USAF were considered Royal Thai Air Force bases and were commanded by Thai officers. Thai air police controlled access to the bases; USAF Security Police who assisted them in base defense them did not even carry guns. Command of the USAF units, however, remained with USAF wing commanders and Seventh Air Force/Thirteenth Air Force headquarters as part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).
Korat was the location for TACAN station Channel 125 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.
The mission of the USAF forces at Korat was to conduct operations in support of U.S. commitments in Southeast Asia North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. During the Vietnam War, pilots from Korat RTAFB primarily flew interdiction, direct air support, armed reconnaissance and fighter escort missions.
The APO for Korat was APO San Francisco, 96288
The USAF mission at Korat RTAFB began in April 1962, when one officer and 14 airmen were temporarily assigned to the base as the joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). U. S. Army personnel were already stationed at Camp Friendship, a post adjacent south of the air base. In July 1964, approximately 500 airmen and officers were assigned to Korat to start the beginning of a tactical fighter operation. The construction of essential base facilities were initiated and was completed by October 1964.
In response to the Gulf Of Tonkin Incident on 31 July 1964, the 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing at Yokota AB, Japan deployed 18 F-105D "Thunderchiefs" of the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron to Korat on 14 August and commenced operations the following day. The 36th TFS remained at Korat until 29 October then returned to Japan. Rotational deployments to Korat began after that with the 80th TFS deploying F-105s from the 41st Air Division at Yokota AB, Japan though the end of December.
In December 1964, the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed to Korat from Kadena AB, Okinawa. The 44th would rotate pilots and personnel to Korat on a TDY (Temporary Duty) basis from 18 Dec 1964–25 Feb 1965, 21 Apr–22 Jun 1965, and 10–29 Oct 1965.
The 44th TFS returned to Kadena AB, Okinawa and assignment to the 18th TFW, but on 31 December 1966, it became only a paper organization without aircraft. The high loss rate of the F-105s in the two combat wings at Korat and Takhli RTAFB mandated the squadron to send its aircraft to Thailand as replacement aircraft. The 44th remained a "paper organization" until 23 April 1967, when it returned to Korat absorbing the personnel, equipment and resources of the 421st TFS.
The 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) was activated in April 1965 with Colonel William D. Ritchie, Jr. as Commander. The Wing had the responsibility for all Air Force units in Thailand until permanent wings were established at other bases.
Known deployed squadrons to Korat attached to the 6234th TFW (P) are:
Beginning in the fall of 1965 the rotation of temporary squadrons ceased with the permanent assignments of several CONUS squadrons.
The 6234th TFW and its subordinate units operating F-105Ds and F-4Cs flew 10,797 sorties totaling 26,165 hours. The wing's efforts merited the Presidential Unit Citation in March 1966.
Units assigned to the 388th TFW upon activation were:
On 15 May 1966, two additional squadrons were activated in place and assigned to the 388th with aircraft being deployed from the 41st Air Division in Japan:
By 1967, Korat RTAFB was home to as many as 34 operating units and about 6,500 USAF airmen. Korat also housed components of the Royal Thai Air Force, and a compliment of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Bristol Freighters. The annual cost for base operations and maintenance was about $12,000,000. The monthly average expenditure for munitions was on the order of $4,360,000.
The 388th TFW lost 48 aircraft in combat during 1967. Seven others were lost due to non-combat reasons. 43 Pilots and Electronic Warfare Officers (EWO) were listed as killed (KIA) or missing in action (MIA). 15 were rescued.
On 23 April 1967 the 44th TFSs' primary mission became one of flying escort to the wing's regular strike force to suppress Anti Aircraft Artillery (AAA) and surface-to-air missile (SAM) as a Wild Weasel squadron.
In mid-1968 it was decided to make the 388th an F-4 Wing, and also to equip the 388th with the new F-4E and the F-105s would be transferred to Takhli. The main difference with the F-4E model was the addition of an internal M61 cannon. The F-4C and D models previously in use had shown some serious drawbacks in the initial air-to-air battles over Vietnam. The earlier Sparrow, Falcon, and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles did not perform up to expectations. They were expensive, unreliable, and vulnerable to countermeasures. Many an enemy MiG was able to escape unscathed because a Phantom-launched missile malfunctioned and missed its target. The Phantoms could carry a podded cannon mounted on the centerline, but it was relatively inaccurate, caused excessive drag which reduced the performance of the Phantom carrying it, and took up a valuable ordinance/fuel station.
On 17 November 1968, an F-4E Phantom squadron from Eglin AFB, FL, replaced the single-seat F-105E Thunderchiefs of the 469th TFS. The new Phantom squadron, the first E-models in Thailand, retained the designation 469th TFS.
On 10 May 1969, the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron was transferred organizationally to the 347th TFW at Yokota AB, Japan, but it remained attached to the 388th TFW at Korat. It was re-equipped with F-4Es on 5 July.
On 12 June 1972, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying F-4D's was deployed from the 3rd TFW, Kusan AB, South Korea, in a "Constant Guard" redeployment to support operations over North Vietnam during Linebacker. They remained until 10 October 1972 when they returned to Korea.
The College Eye EC-121Ds provided airborne radar coverage and surveillance in support of aircraft flying combat operations. Combat reconnaissance missions of the 552d resumed November 25, 1967. These missions normally required the aircraft to be on station for 8 hours. Including transit time to and from station, an average flight was typically about 10 hours, and the force ranged between 5 and 7 aircraft at any one time.
The mission of the 20 Batcats was to interdict and reduce the flow of supplies from North Vietnam down the Ho Chi Minh trail to the NVA soldiers and Viet Cong insurgents in South Vietnam. Their primary objective was to create an anti-vehicle barrier. If the vehicles could be stopped, then a major quantity of enemy supplies would be halted.
While enemy vehicle traffic was the primary target, it was also intended to detect individuals walking down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. To assist with detection of individuals, small bomblets were dropped along the trail. When someone stepped on a bomblet it would detonate, and this small explosion was picked up by the sensors.
In November 1970, the 553d RW was inactivated. The 554th RS transferred to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB to operate QU-22 "Baby Bats", while the 553rd RS remained at Korat with 11 Batcats until December 1971, when it returned to Otis AFB, Massachusetts.
Det. 1 remained at Korat until June 1970, when it left Thailand. It returned in November 1971, now known as "Disco", after MiGs threatened B-52 and other aircraft operating in southern Laos. It remained at Korat, supporting Operation Linebacker, Linebacker II and other USAF operations, until June 1, 1974, when it returned to McClellan AFB, California.
The Korat's table of organization now became (November 1967):
The Wild Weasel concept was originally proposed in 1965 as a method of countering the increasing North Vietnamese SAM threat, using volunteer crews. The mission of the Wild Weasels was to eliminate Communist Surface to Air Missile sites in North Vietnam.
In early 1966, standard F-105D's with no special Electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment accompanied F-100 Wild Weasel I aircraft equipped with basic ECM equipment. In general, the F-100 would identify the SAM site and the F-105D's would fly the actual strike. The mission gradually evolved with the addition of new weapons and ECM equipment until the F-4 Phantom II replaced the F-100 and the F-105D was replaced by the more capable and specialized two-place F-105F and -G models.
The tactics employed on the Iron Hand missions were primarily designed to suppress the SA-2 and gun-laying RADAR defenses of North Vietnam during the ingress, attack and egress of the main strike force. In the suppression role, AGM-45 Shrike missiles were employed to destroy, or at least harass, the SA-2 and/or fire control RADAR which guided the SA-2 missiles.
The 12th Tactical Fighter squadron was equipped with the F-105G and was temporarily reassigned to Takhli in June 1967. The Detachment returned to its main unit at Korat and the 44th TFS was returned to Korat in September 1970 from the 355th TFW to the 388th TFW when the decision was made to consolidate the units of the Wild Weasel mission. With their return, the 6010th Wild Weasel Squadron was formed. The 6010th TFS's aircraft flew with tail code "ZB". The squadron was redesigned the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron on 1 December 1971 and its aircraft recoded "JB".
In February 1972, the 67th TFS returned on Temporary Duty to Korat from Kadena AB, this time being equipped with the EF-4C aircraft. The EF-4C was the initial Wild Weasel version of the Phantom. It was a modified version of the F-4C, designed in parallel with the F-105G Wild Weasel program. The EF-4Cs suffered from certain deficiencies which limited their combat effectiveness. For example, they were unable to carry the Standard ARM. Consequently, the EF-4C was seen only as an interim Wild Weasel aircraft, pending the introduction of a more suitable type. In February 1973, after the end combat operations in Vietnam, the 67th TFS with its EF-4C "Wild Weasles" were withdrawn and returned to Kadena.
Korat's table of organization became (December 1970):
By August 1972, Korat's squadrons were as follows:
On 29 September 1972, the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Myrtle Beach AFB SC, deployed 72 A-7D Corsair II of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron to Korat for a 179-day Temporary Duty (TDY). By mid-October, 1,574 airmen from Myrtle Beach had arrived.
In addition to strike missions during Operations Linebacker and Linebacker II, A-7D's of the 354th assumed the Combat Search and Rescue "Sandy" role from the A-1 Skyraider in November 1972 when the remaining Skyraiders were transferred to the Vietnamese Air Force. In addition, the 354th deployed some personnel to Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam. The 354th generated about 50 sorties each day.
The 354th TFW Forward Echelon at Korat also became a composite unit. Along with the Myrtle Beach personnel, elements of the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing from England AFB LA and the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing from Davis-Monthan AFB AZ were deployed to support the A-7D aircraft. These airmen rotated on 179-day assignments (the limit for TDY assignments) to Korat from these CONUS bases until early 1974.
In March 1973 A-7D aircraft were drawn from the deployed 354th TFW squadrons and assigned to the 388th TFW as the 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. Some TDY personnel from the 354th TFW were assigned to the 388th and placed on permanent party status.
On 2 January 1973, Det 1. 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed from George Air Force Base to Korat flying specially equipped F-105Gs. With the end of combat in August, the squadron returned to the 35th TFW at George on 5 September.
By June 1973, Korat's squadrons were as follows:
The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973 by the governments of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States with the intent to establish 'peace' in Vietnam. The accords effectively ended United States military operations in North and South Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia, however, were not signatories to the Paris agreement and remained in states of war with their internal rebel forces.
The United States was helping the Royal Laotian government achieve whatever advantage possible before working out a settlement with the Laotian Communists and their allies.
The USAF flew 386 combat sorties over Laos during January and 1,449 in February 1973. On 17 April, the USAF flew its last mission over Laos, working a handful of targets requested by the Laotian government.
In Cambodia there was no peace in 1973. Local Communist insurgents of the Khmer Rouge kept up their attacks on the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, so the Cambodian Government urgently called upon the U.S. for help and the USAF in Thailand was ordered to carry out a massive bombing campaign against the insurgents on the outskirts of the city.
The Cambodian Army would attempt to attack Khmer Rouge forces, however the rebels would simply slip away and move somewhere else. This tactic effectively succeeded in wearing down the government forces. In July and August 1973, the Khmer Rouge focused on taking Phanom Penh and other major cities. In addition, it was reported that the Khmer Rouge was utilizing tear gas in its attacks.
Congressional pressure in Washington grew against these bombings, and on 30 June 1973, the United States Congress passed Public law PL 93-50 and 93-52, which cut off all funds for combat in Cambodia and all of Indochina effective 15 August 1973. Air strikes by the USAF peaked just before the deadline, as the Cambodian Army engaged a force of about 10,000 Khmer Rouge rebels that encircled Phnom Penh.
At 1100 hours (local), 15 August 1973, the congressionally mandated cutoff went into effect, bringing combat activities over the skies of Cambodia to an end. A-7 and F-4's from Korat flew strike missions sometimes less than 10 miles (16 km) from Phnom Penh that morning before the cutoff. The final day marked the conclusion of an intense 160-day campaign, during which the USAF expended 240,000 tons of bombs.
At Korat, two A-7D pilots from the 354th TFW returned from flying the last USAF combat mission over Cambodia. Members of the news media had arrived at the base earlier to mark this auspicious occasion. However, the A-7 pilots did not display the excitement that the journalists were expecting.
The Cambodian people did not understand why the United States would, on this arbitrary date, leave, especially after their request for assistance. Without American airpower, there was no reason for the Khmer Rouge rebels to negotiate a peaceful settlement. In a French-language broadcast, the rebels claimed that the bombing halt was a victory for them.
The actions by the USAF helped motivate the Cambodian forces to the point where they were able to force the Khmer Rouge forces to retreat from some of their positions, however the net result was that the rebels were able to regroup in 1974 and resume their offensive.
The F-4 and A-7 aircraft practiced bombing and intercept missions in western Thailand. A large exercise was held on the first Monday of every month, involving all USAF units in Thailand. "Commando Scrimmage" covered skills such as dogfighting, aerial refueling, airborne command posts and forward air controllers. These exercises were taken very seriously. The A-7D aircraft were pitted against the F-4 aircraft in dissimilar air combat exercises.
Two F-111A squadrons, the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron and 429th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing were transferred to Korat from Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base on 12 July 1974.
On 19 July 1974, the 16th Special Operations Squadron was assigned to Korat from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. This was an AC-130 "Spectre" gunship squadron which had been assigned to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon RTAFB. In April and May 1975, aircraft of the 388th TFW provided air cover and escort during the evacuation of Americans from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and of Americans and selected Vietnamese from Saigon, South Vietnam.
On 14-15 May 1975, aircraft assigned to Korat (3rd TFS A-7D, 34th TFS F-4E, 428th TFS F-111A and 16th SOS AC-130) provided air cover in what is considered the last battle of the Vietnam war, the recovery of the SS Mayaguez after it was hijacked by Cambodian communists.
The 354th Tactical Fighter Wing ended its rotating deployments to Korat on 23 May 1974 and returned its A-7D squadrons (353rd and 355th TFS) and aircraft to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina.
The 552nd AEW&C returned to McClellan AFB CA in June 1974, ending the "College Eye" mission.
By December 1974, Korat's squadrons were as follows:
The United States ended its involvement in Southeast Asia by treaty and disengagement rather than by military victory. After the fall of Saigon, relations between Washington and Bangkok turned sour. In May 1975, the Royal Thai Government asked the United States to remove all of its combat forces (27,000 troops, 300 aircraft) by 1976.
On 30 June 1975, the 347th TFW F-111A's and their two squadrons (428th and 429th TFS) were deactivated. The F-111's were sent to the 422d Fighter Weapon Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The 347th became an F-4E Wing at Moody AFB, Georgia.
At the end of 1975, there were only three combat squadrons at Korat, consisting of 24 F-4D's of the 34th TFS, 24 A-7D's of the 3rd TFS, and 6 AC-130 "Spectre" aircraft of the 16th Special Operations Squadron.
The 16th Special Operations Squadron returned to the states, transferring to Eglin AF Aux Airfield #9 (Hurlburt Field), FL, on 12 December 1975
The 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron was transferred to Clark AB, Philippines on 15th December. At Clark, the A-7Ds were going to be formed as the 6014th TFS, however the A-7s were instead returned to CONUS for distribution to Air National Guard units. The 3rd TFS was reformed as an F-4E/G squadron at Clark and assigned tail code PN. The squadron remained at Clark as part of the 3rd TFW until Clark was closed on 31 December 1991 after the Mount Pinatubo eruption.
The 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron remained part of the 388th TFW.
On 23 December 1975, the 388th TFW and its remaining Squadron, the 34th TFS transferred to Hill AFB, Utah where it also gained the 4th TFS and 421st TFS. The USAF retained a small flight of security police at Korat to insure base security and to deter theft of equipment until the final return of the base to the Thai government.
Thirty-eight F-5E and F-5F fighter-bombers purchased from the Northrop Corporation formed the nucleus of the Thai air force's defense and tactical firepower. The F-5Es were accompanied by training teams of American civilian and military technicians, who worked with members of the Thai air force.
In addition to the F-5E and F-5F fighter-bombers, OV-10C aircraft, transports, and helicopters were added to the air force equipment inventory. In 1985 the United States Congress authorized the sale of the F-16 fighter to Thailand.
By the late 1980s, Korat, Takhli, and Don Muang Air Base outside Bangkok, which the air force shared with civil aviation, were the primary operational holdings of the RTAF. Maintenance of the facilities at other bases abandoned by the United States proved too costly and exceeded Thai needs and were turned over to the Department of Civil Aviation for civil use. Nonetheless, all runways were still available for military training and emergency use.