AIRCRAFT ASSIGNED: B-52, KC-135, HH-43 and P-3
RUNWAY LENGTH: 11,500 by 200-foot runway
HOSPITAL FACILITIES: 80-bed, full service hospital
PERSONNEL STRENGTH: Approximately 7,500 U.S. military
LOCATION IN THAILAND: 116 miles south of Bangkok
Beginning construction in October 1965, the airfield was considered one of the finest in Southeast Asia slightly more than two years later. First on the airfield construction priorities were the aerodrome facilities, including an 11,000 foot runway, which became serviceable on 6 July 1966. On this date, the first landings were made at U-Tapao; first came a Royal Thai Air Force HH-16, then a USAF C-130. Steadily progressing and adding to the mission, U-Tapao welcomed its first complement of KC-135 tankers in August 1966. In September, the base was supporting 15 tankers.
One of the most significant mission changes in the history of the Air Force came about when the Department of Defense chose U-Tapao as a staging base for the SAC B-52 bombers, the giant eight-engine bomber backbone of the USAF. Official approval to use U-Tapao as a B-52 base camp came just three months before the bombers began operations in Thailand. This caused an already tremendous work load to approach the endurability limits of both men and machines, but, in true Air Force fashion, hardships were overcome, progress was made, and all efforts culminated on 10 April 1967, when three B-52 bombers landed at U-Tapao following a bombing mission over Vietnam. The very next day, B-52 operations were initiated at U-Tapao. Eventually, the base supported these strategic bombers, all participating in daily strikes.
The 4258th Strategic Wing (SAC) was activated in June 1966 at U-Tapao under 3rd Air Division, Anderson AFB, Guam. The wing was charged with the responsibility of supporting refueling requirements of USAF fighter aircraft in Southeast Asia, plus conducting bombing missions on a daily basis.
On 1 April 1970, in conjunction with the redesignation of the 3rd Air Division, Anderson AFB, Guam, as the Eighth Air Force, the 4258th SW was redesignated as the 307th SW.
On 1 June 1972 the 307th SW was reorganized into the 17th Air Division (Provisional), the 310th SW (Provisional) and the 307th SW. The U-Tapao B-52 bomber force was under the control of the 307th wing, while the KC-135 tanker force was under the 310th wing. Both wings were under the command of the 17th Air Division. Other missions of the U-Tapao organization included supplying other U.S. occupied Thai installations with equipment and materiel; support of the U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard units in the area; and jurisdiction for what had become known as the Sattahip complex. This complex included a nine-berth deep water port, a Coast Guard LORAN station, three U.S. transportation units, and approximately 10,000 American servicemen and Thai nationals who worked and resided in the surrounding hamlets and towns.
Facilities located on U-Tapao included airmen dormitories and officer BOQs for housing of more than 7,000 airfield personnel, three recreation clubs, a beach facility, library, a base exchange, swimming pool, base theater, chapel and hobby shops.
[ Air Force Info ]