During the Vietnam War, from 1962 through 1975, Korat RTAFB was the largest front-line facility of the United States Air Force in Thailand. During the 1980s and early-1990s, the airfield was operated as a civil airport for Nakhon Ratchasima. This ended with the opening of Nakhon Ratchasima Airport in the early-1990s, Korat RTAFB is the home of the 1st RTAF Wing, consisting of three squadrons. The airfield has a single 9,800 + foot runway with a single,102 Squadron flies 15 F-16A-15ADF and one 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, all F-16s are the block 15 version. A detachment of 1 UH-1H Iroquois helicopters from 203 Squadron, Wing 2 is also based at Korat, Korat RTAFB is a major facility for the Cope Tiger exercises, an annual, multinational exercise conducted in two phases in the Asia-Pacific region. Cope Tiger involves air forces from the United States, Thailand, US naval aircraft have also been involved in Cope Tiger. The flying training portion of the exercise promotes closer relations and enables air force units in the region to air combat skills. Pilots fly both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training missions, Thai Forces fly F-16A/B Fighting Falcons, F-5E Tigers and ground attack L-39s, and Alpha jets of 231 Squadron. Singaporean forces fly F-5Es, F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, Lockheed KC-130B Hercules, Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, Boeing CH-47SD Chinooks, more than 1,100 people participate, including approximately 500 US service members and 600 service members from Thailand and Singapore. Over the last few years, Cope Tiger has widened to include CSAR assets and these included a C-130E Hercules from 36 Airlift Squadron,374 Airlift Wing in 2006, and a G-222 and a C-130H from the RTAF in 2007. Since the 1980s United States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet fighters have used Korat as a base during Cobra Gold exercises, the origins of Korat Air Base dates back to the Japanese Occupation of Thailand during World War II. After the end of the war, the facilities were taken over by the Thai government as a military base, various Japanese facilities were used by the Royal Thai Air Force until the 1960s. In 1961, the Kennedy administration feared a communist invasion or insurgency inside Thailand would spread from the Laotian Civil War, the United States Army Corps of Engineers were deployed and established a headquarters at the RTAF airfield that later became Korat Air Base. The first facilities were built on the side of the runway. They included a hospital, some barracks and some warehouses for equipment that was flown in using the existing runway, under the agreement, United States forces using Thai air bases were commanded by Thai officers. Thai air police controlled access to the bases, along with USAF Security Police, who assisted them in base defense using sentry dogs, observation towers, and machine gun bunkers. The Geneva Accords of 1962 ended the threat, but both Camp Friendship and Korat Air Base were developed as part of the buildup of forces in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War
1973 map of Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base (click on map for high resolution)
36th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-105D having MK-82 500 pound bombs being loaded prior to a mission, Korat, 1964
18th Tactical Fighter Wing F-105s deploying to Korat RTAFB, Thailand 1965 Republic F-105D-25-RE Thunderchief 61-0204 identifiable, was retired to MASDC as FK0009, 7 October 1976.
67th TFS Republic F-105D-25-RE Thunderchief 61-0217. On 16 September 1965 Lt Col James Robinson Risner was flying this aircraft from Korat on a mission over Route Pack 4 when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery. He ejected successfully and became a prisoner of war. He was released in March 1973.