The Royal Thai Air Force (Kongtap Agard Thai) had received a batch of Freedom Fighters in the late 1960s as part of an agreement in which American forces would be allowed to stage attacks on North Vietnam out of bases on Thai soil. These were dedicated ground attack aircraft.
More advanced F-5Es and Fs followed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Two batches each of 17 F-5Es and 3 F-5Fs were delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force in 1977 and 1981 respectively. Ten more F-5Es were acquired second hand from the USAF as attrition replacements when the PACAF aggressor squadron at Clark AFB was disbanded in 1988.
The first batch of F-5E/Fs went to No. 102 Squadron of No. 1 Wing based at Nakhom Ratchasima (formerly Korat). The second batch went to 403 Squadron of No 4 Wing based at Takhli, this unit having formerly operated the A-37B. 103 Squadron at Nakhom Ratchasima retained the earlier F-5A/B. The third batch delivered in 1988 went to 211 Squadron of 21 Wing , based at Ubon Ratchathani. In RTAF service, the F-5 has been allocated the designation B.Kh.18 (F-5A) and B.Kh.18A (F-5E).
In June of 1985, the Royal Thai Air Force began the upgrading of 20 of its F-5Es, fitting Litton LN-39 INS, ALR-46 RWR, ALE-40 chaff/flare dispensers, and a GEC Avionics HUD/WAC. An additional 18 F-5E/Fs received a HUD and INS only. For the ground attack mission, Thailand acquired the General Electric GPU-5/A 30-mm cannon pod which is carried on the centerline station. This carries a four-barrel GAU-13/A derivative of the A-10's GAU-8/A avenger cannon, and can fire at rates of up to 2400 rpm.
102 Squadron received the L-39ZA Albatross in 1994 and transferred its F-5E/Fs to 711 Squadron of the 4th Air Division/71 Wing based at Surat Thani. When it got the Tigers, 711 Squadron transferred its OV-10Cs to 411 Squadron. 711 Squadron fulfills a dual role as an aggressor unit during the training of other fighter squadrons. 103 Squadron began to take delivery of the F-16 in 1988, transferring its early-model R/F-5As and F-5Bs to 231 Squadron in 1989. 403 Squadron began to transition to the F-16C in September of 1995. It is planned that 403 Squadron will transfer its F-5E/Fs to 211 Squadron and 231 Squadron once the transition to the F-16 is complete. These will replace the earlier-model F-5s that are currently operated by 231 Squadron.
The arrival of the F-16 will see the Tiger II largely relegated to ground attack duties in the Royal Thai Air Force. The Tiger II is scheduled to be replaced by the AMX light strike fighter in the ground attack role later in the 1990s.
Service of F-5 with Royal Thai Air Force: