Thailand

KongTup Arkard Thai
Royal Thai Air Force - RTAF


Introduction

The Royal Thai Air Force ordered atotal of 54 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon aircraft. It received a further 7 F-16A/B aircraft as a donation from Singapore in exchange for the use of training facilities in Thailand by the RSAF.

Inventory

Peace Naresuan I

In April of 1985, the government of Thailand made overtures to the United States to purchase twelve F-16A's. At that time, the F-16/79 was considered to be the only version that Thailand would be allowed to receive. However, in July 1987, Thailand was given approval to go ahead and order the F100-powered F-16, and a letter of agreement was signed in December of 1987 for the purchase of eight F-16A's and four F-16B's under the Peace Naresuan I Foreign Military Sales program. Thailand took delivery of its first F-16A in a ceremony at Fort Worth. All 12 aircraft of Thailand's first F-16 order are of the block 15OCU variety.


RTAF F-16A block 15OCU #40310, part of the Peace Naresuan II program, making a steep climb at a company acceptance flight [USAF photo]

Peace Naresuan II

Together with the signing of the first contract, the Thai Air Force was already seeking to add 6 more aircraft to the inventory. At the end of the eighties the Thai government signed a contract to purchase 6 more F-16A's under the Peace Naresuan II contract. These aircraft were also of the OCU version.

Peace Naresuan III

In September 1995 Thailand received the first aircraft of a second batch of eighteen new F-16A/B Block 15OCU aircraft, 12 A-models and 6 B-models. They have been used to establish a second F-16 squadron based in Thailand. The last six of those F-16s were delivered to Thailand in February 1996. This event marked the end of the production for all block 15 F-16s for Lockheed Martin. The Block 15 has been in continuous production for over fourteen years and, at 983 aircraft, is the largest block produced.

Peace Naresuan IV

In March 1999, the US announced it was prepared to sell used F-16 jet fighters to Thailand. In May 2001, the United States acquired eight F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters ordered by Thailand because the cash-strapped country was unable to complete the contract after the Baht plunged in July 1997.

President Bill Clinton had told Thai Premier Chuan Leekpai in March 2001 that the United States was prepared to take over the 1996 fighter purchase contract and to limit the Thai government's obligation to the $74.5 million it had already paid. That decision relieved Thailand of the burden of paying the remaining $317 million on the purchase order or paying termination costs of up to $250 million. The advance money could be used to pay off the second hand F-16s.

On July 14th, 2000, the Thai government decided to purchase 16 F-16s (15 A's and 1 B in the ADF version) to establish a third F-16 squadron. The aircraft were delivered in August and October 2002 and the remainder in July 2003. Also 2 block 10OCU aircraft were purchased for spare parts reclamation.


RTAF F-16A ADF #10216, seen at Davis-Monthan AB in 2003, was one of the aircraft purchased under the Peace Naresuan IV program. [Photo by RipVW]

Singapore donation

On November 18th, 2004 it was announced that Thailand was to receive the remaining 7 RSAF F-16A/B's (3 Alpha models and 4 Bravo models). They were all handed over in the course of January 2005. Instead of a standard purchase between two governments, these airframes are donated by the government of Singapore to the Thai Air Force. In return the RSAF can train on the Thai air base of Udon Thani a number of days each year. This deal signifies the good relationship between these two ASEAN member countries.

Future Orders

In June of 2005 the Commander-in-Chief of the RTAF announced that the Air Force was seeking new fighters to replace the ageing fleet of F-5s and OV-10's. Since the RTAF already has a number of F-16 aircraft in service, the F-16 will be the prime contender in an eventual fighter deal. Eventually the Thai government opted to buy the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen as their new fighter platform for introduction in 2011.

RTAF Inventory
Program Model Block Qty. Serials Delivered
Peace Naresuan I F-16A Block 15OCU 8 10305/10312 1988
F-16B Block 15OCU 4 10301/10304 1988
Peace Naresuan II F-16A Block 15OCU 6 10313/10318 1990-1991
Peace Naresuan III F-16A Block 15OCU 12 40307/40318 1995-1996
F-16B Block 15OCU 6 40301/40306 1995
Peace Naresuan IV F-16A Block 15ADF 15 10202/10216 2002-2003
F-16B Block 15ADF 1 10201 2002
F-16A Block 10OCU 2 ? 2002
Singapore donation F-16A Block 15OCU 3 10323/10325 2005
F-16B Block 15OCU 4 10319/10322 2005

Modifications & Armament

Armament

Little is known about the weapons inventory of Thai F-16s. Standard air-to-air armament is the AIM-9 Sidewinder. In 1995, the RTAF acquired a number of Python 3 missiles, followed by AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in 2003. In the air-to-ground role standard equipment is made up of Mk. 82 and Mk. 84 bombs possibly supplemented with a number of AGM-65 missiles.

Altis II / Rubis targetting/navigation pods

The Thai F-16s however do possess a precision attack capability by day and night with the introduction in the early nineties of the Altis II targeting pod and the Rubis navigation pod. These pods are used in conjuction with GBU-10 and GBU-12 precision guided munitions.

Midlife Update

In October of 2010 the Thai government decided to give the 18 airframes that are operational within 403 sqn the MLU update. These airframes are the youngest airframes in the Thai inventory and are effectively the last block 15 airframes that were build (in 1996). The contract totals up to $700 million and spans over a 3 year period starting in 2011. This will extend the aircraft's life up to 2035.

Operational Service

Units

Please refer to the F-16 Units section for an overview of units.


Special thanks

  • Kwanjai 'Maxx' Yathong.

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