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Military


Naval Air Division

A small naval air component flew a modest inventory of helicopters and light aircraft in reconnaissance, patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and search-and-rescue missions. Naval aviation is seen as a priority in the navy; it currently has a strength of 1,200. Significant plans have been made to develop more naval aviation assets. Improvements include three P-3A Orion maritime patrol aircraft equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles acquired in 1995 and plans to acquire Kaman SH-2 Seasprite shipborne helicopters for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations from the new frigates were under consideration - six medium-size helicopters were to be ordered (the Kamov Ka-27 was a possible alternative to the Seasprite).

On April 7, 2006 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Thailand of 6 MH-60S helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $246 million. The Government of Thailand has requested a possible sale of 6 MH-60S helicopters, 14 T700 engines, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistics support.

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) required the helicopters to fulfill utility lift requirements. Thailands need to enhance its maritime defense and disaster relief capabilities was highlighted during the recent tsunami search and rescue operations. The proposed sale will improve Thailands mobility capability and enhance its ability to work with the United States and coalition partners during contingencies. It will contribute to the U.S. foreign policy and national security by helping to improve the security of an ally that has been and continues to be an important force in the counter narco-terrorist mission.

On 24 March 2007 Navy Commander-in-chief Sathiraphan Keyanon ordered the suspension of use of all Bell 214 ST helicopters, pending investigation on the entire fleet after the fatal crash in Surin yesterday. Adm. Sathiraphan said the cause of the Navy helicopter crash in Surin province is being inspected. He said all Bell 214 ST helicopters will be inspected. The Navy chief added that the model still had problems with either its rotors or the body, and thus he ordered suspension of use until the matter was resolved.

The concept of establishing a Naval Air Arm was first proposed by Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Marine on 23 November 1921 when the matter was raised at the Third General Ministerial Meeting that "It is high time the Navy establish a Naval Air Arm in 1922 and use Sattahip as the Naval Air Station. .We could begin with two naval aircraft procurement.."

Later at the Fourth General Ministerial Meeting on 7 December 1921, the Joint Military Commission approved the proposal for establishment of the Naval Air Arm and assigned Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara to draw up the details of the scheme for implementation. Each year, celebrations for the Founding Anniversary of the Naval Air Division are organised on 7 December, commemorating the approval date by the Joint Military Commission. In recognition of his far-sighted proposal, Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara is also regarded as the Founding Father of the Naval Air Division.

In 1924 the Navy Ministry started sending its personnel to take flight and aerial reconnaissance courses at the Air Force Department in Don Muang and continued doing so for many years until the program was stopped because the Naval Air Division lacked adequate aircraft for flights.

During 1936 and 1937, the Navy Ministry launched its runway and flight control office construction project at Sattahip Bay in the vicinity of Chuk Samet and signed contract with Mitsui Busun Sakai, representative of Watanabe Iron Work of Japan, for the construction of six Watanabe WS-130 Class aircraft. The aircraft were trialed and accepted on 25 April 1938 and delivered to the Royal Thai Navy on 4 May 1938. These aircraft were later given a new name, "Navy Type 1" or Bor Ror Nor 1.

On 1 June 1938, the Royal Thai Navy established the Naval Air Arm with six aircraft under its command under the Warship Department (the Royal Thai Fleet at present). Navy pilots were then sent for training at the Aircraft Division of the Army.

In addition to the six aircraft, the Naval Air Arm borrowed two training aircraft, 86 A vro from the Royal Thai Air Force. They were modified for landing and taking off at sea before being used for training in 1939. When the Indo-China dispute broke out, these aircraft were deployed in naval operations against invaders at Ko Chang on 17 January 1941.

During 1941 - 1942, the Royal Thai Navy procured another 18 aircraft, Type E-8 N-l from Nakajima of Japan. This type of aircraft was later given a new name, "Navy Type 2" or Bor Ror Nor 2.

In 1942, when the Defence Ministry saw the increased number of aircraft, the Naval Air Arm was upgraded to Naval Air Wing under the command of the Fleet. When WorId War II broke out in Southeast Asia on 8 December 1942, the Royal Thai Navy procured another 27 aircraft of Navy Type 2 and another three aerial reconnaissance aircraft of Navy Type 3. These aircraft were the same type as E-13 A-l manufactured by Aichi of Japan and known to the Japanese Navy as type Zero Model 11 and to the Allies as Jake. The Naval Air Station then became the Naval Air Division with two wings under its command.

In July 1941 Japan presented three aircraft of Navy Type 3 to the Royal Thai Navy in Singapore from where naval pilots were sent to fly them back to Thailand.

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., 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.

On 17 June 1962, the U.S. Navy sent 2 aircraft (HU-16D) to Don Muang Airport. The Defence Ministry later ordered the creation of the Naval Air Unit attached to the Royal Thai Fleet, using Don Muang Airport facilities belonging to the Royal Thai Air Force as a temporary naval air station.

In 1964 the Royal Thai Navy was granted a budget to build an airfield at Ban U-Tapao. In 1965 the government welcomed the assistance from the U.S. government to expand the airfield where the Royal Thai Navy had been working. The U.S. Air Force began its work with the new layout of the whole airfield with necessary facilities.

On 9 August 1966, Admiral of the Fleet Sarit Thanarat presented the airfield at Sattahip to the Royal Thai Navy and also gave the name to this airfield as "U-Tapao Naval Airbase"

In 1966 the Royal Thai Navy received another six aircraft (GRUMMAN S-2F TRACKER) from the U.S. Navy. With the additional number of the aircraft, the Don Muang Airport had insufficient space to house them. It was in May 1967 that the Royal Thai Navy decided to relocate the Naval Air Unit to the new airfield at Ban U-Tapao on 1 September 1967.

On 8 May 1968 the Royal Thai Navy received three other aircraft (a-lA) from the U.S. Navy. In 1971 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 Wings.

On 14 May 1990 the Defence Ministry &ranted 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-70 B (Sea Hawk). Around this time, the Royal Thai Navy also procured eighteen A-7 (Corsair) and six S-76B. 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.

From 1990 onwards, the Naval Air Division has continuallly kept apace of fast changing manpower, material and aviation technology development. TheDivision has many types of aircraft which are in readiness o serve in various missions to protect the sovereignty of the kingdom, to support naval and marine operations, and to conduct search and rescue, as well as relief operation.




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Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:31:10 ZULU