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Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base
Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base is a Royal Thai Air Force facility. It is located in Central Thailand, approximately 144 miles (240 km) northwest of Bangkok in Takhli district, Nakhon Sawan Province, near the city of Nakhon Sawan.
Takhli was a front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Vietnam War from 1961 through 1975. The USAF forces at Takhli were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). Takhli was the location for TACAN station Channel 43 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.
The initial squadrons and units deployed to Takhli were placed under the command and control of the Thirteenth Air Force, headquartered at Clark AB in the Philippines. Thailand-based aircraft flew missions mostly into Laos until the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which expanded the air war into North Vietnam.
6011th Air Base Squadron
The first United States Air Force personnel began arriving at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in early 1961 with a detachment of F-100D "Supersabres" from the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, New Mexico to try and restrain the Pathet Lao which were busily overrunning most of northwestern Laos.
The first permanent USAF host unit at Takhli was the 6011th Air Base Squadron, being activated in July 1962, hosting the deployed F-100Ds from the 27th TFW. The 6011th ABS was under the command of the 35th Tactical Group at Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base in Bangkok. During February 1963, the rotational squadrons of F-100's from Cannon was reduced to six aircraft, with the deployments from Cannon ending in March 1964 and the squadrons deploying instead to Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam.
On 11 May 1962, the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 405th Fighter Wing from Clark Air Base, Philippines was deployed to Takhli in response to an increasing threat along the Laotian border. This deployment was named FIELD GLASS. The first recorded combat loss was an F-100D (56-3085), shot down on August 18, 1964 over Laos. The Clark F-100s remained at Takhli until 20 August 1965 on a rotating basis.
In an organizational change, the 331st Air Base Squadron replaced the 6011th ABS at Takhli in July 1963 as the host unit at Takhli. The 331st ABS came under the command and control of 13th Air Force at Clark AB, Philippines. About a year later, the last rotating F-100 squadron departed Takhli, to be replaced by the Republic F-105D "Thunderchief". The F-105D was destined to become a major participant in the war in Vietnam. The F-105D 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed to Takhli from Itazuke AB, Japan, May 1964-June 1964 (8th TFW), 6 March–4 May 1965 and 26 August–28 October 1965 (6441st TWF).
The 80th Fighter Squadron (F-105D/F) deployed to Takhli between 27 June–26 August 1965 from the 6441st TFW, Yokota AB, Japan.
Also in the early 1960s, Tactical Air Command (TAC) fighter-bombers were equipped with hose-and-drogue tankers such as converted KB-50s, whereas boom tankers such as KC-97s and KC-135s had been assigned to Strategic Air Command. In August 1964, Det 1., 421st Air Refueling Squadron was organized at Takhli from Yokota Air Base Japan. The 421st flew the KB-50J.
In order to make TAC's fleet of fighter-bombers capable of using the boom-equipped KC-97 or KC-135 tankers, last few F-105Ds off the production line (production block -31) were given the capability of refuelling from either a flying boom or a hose-drogue type of tanker. This was done by fitting a flush-mounted retractable door-type receptacle in front of the windshield which could accept a flying-boom type of midair-refuelling probe. Some earlier F-105Ds were retrofitted with these receptacles. The 421st stayed at Takhli until 15 January 1965 when it was deactivated. The aerial refueling mission was taken over by a detachment of the 4252d Strategic Wing from Misawa Air Base with KC-135s replacing the KB-50s.
Fifteen F-104C Starfighters arrived in April 1965, with the 476th Tactical Fighter Squadron from the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing at George AFB. At Takhli they carried out 2,927 missions of machine-gunning, bombing and escorting strike aircraft, sometimes in North Vietnamese air space, before returning to the United States on 20 November.
 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing
In May 1965 the 6441st TFW (Provisional) became the host unit at Takhli and the base became a forward deployment location for rotational squadrons, largely from the 23d Tactical Fighter Wing based at McConnell AFB Kansas. Two squadrons (562d, 563d) from the 23d TFW were deployed to Takhli in April 1965, returning to Kansas on 15 August.
An additional F-105 squadron from McConnell, the 357th TFS, was deployed from the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing on 12 June 1965.
On 8 July 1965 the 6235th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated to replace the 6441st TFW.
355th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 8 November 1965 the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing made a permanent change of station (PCS) from McConnell AFB to Takhli without personnel or equipment as the host unit at the base. The provisional 6235th TFW was de-activated and the equipment and personnel at Takhli were absorbed into the new wing structure. Previously, all of the 355th's squadrons at McConnell had been deployed to various bases in Southeast Asia, two of which were reassigned to Takhli (357th, 354th TFS) and brought back under its control.
F-105 Tactical Operations
The 355th TFW participated in major strikes against North Vietnamese logistical areas. Among the targets hit by the 355th were the Yen Bay Arsenal and storage complex, Viet Tri Railroad and highway bridge, Hanoi petroleum storage complex, Dap Cau railroad and highway bridge, Phuc Yen petroleum storage and Thai Nguyen railroad station and yard.
In May 1967, the 355th TFW received its first Presidential Unit Citation for action from 1 January 1966 to 10 October 1966. During this time, the wing flew 11,892 sorties, downed 2 MiGs, and damaged 8 more.
On 10 March 1967, Capt. Max C. Brestel, an F-105 pilot became the first twin MiG-killer of the war when he shot down two MiG-17's.
Also on 10 March, Capt Merlyn H. Dethlefsen earned the Medal of Honor. The target was the steel works at Thai Nguyen 50 miles north of Hanoi. After the flight leader was shot down and his wingman forced to leave the area due to battle damage, Capt Dethlefsen took command of the flight and pressed the attack on the defensive positions around the target. While evading several MiGs and being hit by AAA, Capt Dethlefsen took out 2 SAM sites to clear the way for the main strike force.
On 19 April 1967, Major Leo K. Thorsness earned the Medal of Honor.
On 11 August 1967, the 355th conducted a raid on the Hanoi railroad and highway bridge. Thirty-six strike aircraft led by the 355th dropped 94 tons of bombs and destroyed one rail span and two highway spans on the northeast side of the bridge. The superstructure was damaged and the highway portion on the north side of the bridge, where it crossed the island in the river, was cut. This stopped the movement of an average of 26 trains per day with an estimated capacity of 5,950 short tons. Two aircraft were damaged, but no pilots were lost. The heart of the North Vietnamese transportation system had been dealt a severe blow.
On 8 October 1967, a flight of F-105's from the 355th TFW attacked and destroyed, on the ground, 2 Mil Mi-6 and 4 Mil Mi-4 Soviet built helicopters. On 24 October, The 355th lead a strike against the Phuc Yen airfield 18 miles north of Hanoi and the largest in North Vietnam. The airfield, which had been untouched prior to the raid, was left unserviceable. On 14 December, under heavy anti aircraft fire, the Wing attacked the Paul Doumer bridge, a vital link between Hanoi and Red China. For the third time, the bridge comes down.
In November, 1967, Gerald Gustafson received the Air Force Cross after he refused to leave his comrade until other escort aircraft could be vectored in to give the wounded pilot assistance in reaching his home base safely.
In January 1970, the 355th TFW received its 2nd Presidential Unit Citation for action from 11–12 August 1967 and 24–28 October 1967.
In July, the 355th TFW received its record 3rd Presidential Unit Citation for action from 12 April 1968 through 30 April 1969. During this time frame, the wing dropped 32,000 tons of ordinance on 2,100 targets while flying 17,000 combat sorties.
F-105G Wild Weasels
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.
On a Wild Weasel mission, an F-100 or F-4 would identify the SAM site and be targeted by the SAM, and then the F-105D's would fly the actual attack strike against the SAM Site. The F-105G was the designation given to Wild Weasel F-105Fs which were fitted with greatly improved avionics. The designation EF-105F was temporarily applied to these aircraft, but their designation was eventually changed to F-105G.
The first F-105Gs went to the 357th TFS at Tahkli RTAFB during the second half of 1967.
The 12th Tactical Fighter squadron of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, which had been detached to Korat RTAFB from Okinawa, was also equipped with the F-105G and was temporarily reassigned to Takhli in June 1967. A third Wild Weasel squadron, the 44th TFS was reassigned to the 355th from Korat when the decision was made in October 1969 to make the 388th TFW at Korat an all F-4 wing.
The Detachment from the 12th TFS 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.
F-111A Combat Lancer
The General Dynamics F-111 was one of the most controversial aircraft that ever flew. Perhaps no other aircraft before or since has been so bitterly criticized in the media. The first production F-111A deliveries to the Air Force took place on 18 July 1967 to the 428th, 492nd and 430th Tactical Fighter Squadrons of the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. In early 1968, the squadron was reassigned to Nellis AFB, Nevada.
Shortly thereafter, the Air Force decided to rush a small detachment of F-111As to Southeast Asia under a program known as Combat Lancer. Six 428th TFS F-111As were allocated to the Combat Lancer program, and departed Nellis AFB for Takhli on 15 March 1968. By the end of that month, 55 night missions had been flown against targets in North Vietnam, but two aircraft had been lost. 66-0022 had been lost on March 28, and 66-0017 on March 30. Replacement aircraft had left Nellis, but the loss of a third F-111A (66-0024) on April 22 halted F-111A combat operations. However, the aircraft remained poised for combat, but they saw little action before their return to the United States in November.
It turned out that the three F-111A losses were not due to enemy action but were caused by wing and tail structural defects. One of the Combat Lancer crashes had been traced to a malfunction of the aircraft's tail servo actuator. The USAF later discovered (as a later returning prisoner of war would confirm) that a tailplane problem could cause a sudden and uncontrollable pitch-up and roll. This failure in the flying controls system caused the aircraft to break up in flight. The other two crashes in Vietnam were traced to poor mounting of the M61A1 cannon and to pilot error.
First withdrawal of US units
A phasing down of Takhli began in 1969-1970 as part of the general American withdrawal from Southeast Asia:
The 41st TEWS was deactivated October 31, 1969.
The 42d TEWS (B-66) squadron were transferred to Korat in August 1970.
Det 1, 12 TFS was deactivated and the aircraft rejoined the rest of the squadron at Korat with their F-105G Wild Weasel aircraft in September.
On 6 October the Wing's last F-105 combat mission of the war, an airstrike in Laos, was flown by "DINO" flight, led by Col. Waymond C. Nutt.
The 355 TFW ceased combat operations at Takhli on 7 October, and on the 12th, the wing retired its colors with a 12-aircraft flyover of F-105s.
The 357th and 333d TFSs (F-105) were reassigned to the 23d Tactical Fighter Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The 354th TFS was deactivated in place, then reactivated without equipment or personnel at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
The 44th TFS was reassigned to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
In November, Special Forces and Air Force Special Operations personnel of the Joint Contingency Task Group and two MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft staged at Takhli in preparation for Operation Kingpin, the attempt to rescue U.S. prisoners of war at Son Tay, North Vietnam.
The 355th Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated on 10 December. It was reactivated on 1 July 1971 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The last USAF personnel left Takhli RTAFB by April 1971.
1972 return of USAF
In response to the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive and invasion of South Vietnam by its regular armed forces, the United States launched Operation Linebacker, the first sustained bombing of North Vietnam by the U.S. since November 1968.
49th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 5 May about 35 members of an PACAF advance party returned to Takhli to prepare the facility for the arrival of the F-4D "Phantoms"s of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing from Holloman AFB, New Mexico.
366th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 30 June the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned to Takhli from Da Nang Air Base South Vietnam, taking over host unit responsibilities from the 49th TFW.
From Takhli 366th TFW aircrews flew air superiority missions over Vietnam. In addition several AC-130 gunships were deployed to Takhli from the 8th TFW at Ubon. These AC-130s were assigned to Det 1., 16th Special Operations Squadron.
The Holloman-based TDY squadrons returned to New Mexico on 27 October 1972.
The 4th and 421st TFSs were transferred to the 432d TRW at Udon RTAFB on 31 October 1972.
The 366th TFW was deactivated in place on 31 October 1972, being reactivated the same day without personnel or equipment at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
474th Tactical Fighter Wing
With the departure of the 366th, the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing (Deployed) equipped with F-111s arrived at Takhli on Temporary Duty from Nellis Air Force Base Nevada on 27 September 1972.
All F-111As of the 474th carried the tail code NA. From Takhli, the 474th participated in Operation Linebacker II when the United States resumed the large scale bombing of North Vietnam.
In early 1973, With the suspension of bombing in North Vietnam and the resumption of peace negotiations, inflight refueling requirements decreased markedly. As a result, in late January 1973 many of the augmented tankers of the 11th Air Refueling Squadron, which has been rotating aircraft and aircrews from Altus AFB, returned to Oklahoma.
The 430th TFS returned to the 474th TFW Nellis on 22 March 1973, while the 428th and 429th were assigned to the newly transferred 347th Tactical Fighter Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base Idaho on 30 July 1973.
347th Tactical Fighter Wing
1974 photo of F-111A Serial 67-0102 from the 428th TFS refueling from a KC-135 tanker. Also shown is an F-4E (67-368) of the 58th TFS/8th TFW at Ubon RTAFB (ED) (TDY from Kunsan AB, South Korea) and two F-4Es from the 336th TFW also from Ubon (SJ) (TDY from Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina).
On 30 July 1973 the TDY of the 474th TFW ended. The wing was replaced at Takhli by the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing which was transferred from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, retaining two squadrons of F-111As of the 474th.
For a brief two-week period the 347th flew combat operations into Cambodia until 15 August, when the last wartime mission of the Vietnam Era was flown into Cambodia for final mission of Constant Guard. After the cease-fire, the wing was maintained in a combat-ready status for possible contingency actions.
Final USAF withdrawal from Takhli
During January 1974 the Secretary of Defense announced a realignment of Thailand resources, with the final pullout of air resources by the end of 1976. In June 1974, Four F-111s from the 347 TFW flew from Takhli to Osan Air Base South Korea and conducted live weapons demonstrations for Republic of Korea and US officials at Nightmare Range.
On 12 July the 347 TFW's F-111's and the AC-130 gunships from the 16th SOS were transferred to Korat.
On 31 July 1974 phase down of operations at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base was completed ahead of schedule, and the base was officially returned to the Thai Government on 12 September. All remaining US personnel departed on 14 September.
Major Aircraft Types Assigned To Takhli
F-100 Super Sabre (1961–1963)
F-105 Thunderchief (1963–1970)
Boeing KB-50 (1964–1965)
F-104 Starfighter (1965)
Douglas EB-66 Destroyer (1965–1970)
KC-135 Stratotanker (1967–1968)
General Dynamics F-111 (1967, 1972–1974)
F-4 Phantom II (1972)
MC-130 Combat Talon
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