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U-Tapao Airport

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U-Tapao (also known as Utapao and U-Taphao) is an active airport and home of the Royal Thai Navy First Air Wing. The airport also served as a front-line base for the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. The airport has a long and distinguished history that is well documented.

The airport is approximately 25 minutes from Pattaya on the Gulf of Siam. Currently the airport services: Bangkok Airways, Korean Air, PMTair and Transaero.

U-Tapao Airport and the Military

The airport served as host to several US lead peacetime missions starting in 1981, including Operation Cobra Gold. The operation was a joint operation between the United States, Singapore and Thailand. The United States views Thailand and this airport as a major piece of their "forward positioning" strategy.

Some believe that Al Qaeda operatives are being interrogated at the airport despite the fact that Thailand remained neutral during the Iraqi war.

The airport was a front-line facility during the Vietnam War. Many U.S. military personnel then traveled to Pattaya for rest and relaxation though more likely for beer bars and prostitutes.

In the mid-1960s both Cambodia and South Vietnam had fallen and the Thai government wanted the U.S. out of Thailand. Honoring the request, the United States launched Palace Lightning which was a plan to remove USAF aircraft and personnel from Thailand.

In June 1976, six months after the personnel and equipment was removed from Thailand, the base was given to the Thai government.

The airport is both a functioning airport and a military museum and base. It is not uncommon for visitors to visit the airport on a site seeing tour despite the fact it remains a fully functioning airport.

Most recently the airport was used as a base of operation for relief from the Tsunami that devastated nearby areas.

Last Updated: 11 Sep 2007