In fact in 1937, the British Naval attaché to the country recorded that the aircraft production facilities in Thailand were the second best in Asia, second only to Japan. Probably should bear in mind that that isn’t that surprising when we remember that Japan and Thailand were the only countries in Asia not directly ruled by colonial powers or heavily impacted by them.
Naturally, the Second World War put something of a dent in Thailand’s aeronautic plans, and then in the post war era the Thai’s had access to plenty of cheap British and American aircraft and really didn’t have much call to invest to heavily in their own aircraft industry. But as Thailand developed and became one of the bigger economies in South East Asia, the impetus to once again develop and build their own aircraft gradually mounted.
Initially this saw the creation of the Science and Weapon Systems Development Centre of the Royal Thai Air Force, and this would begin working on making product improvements to aircraft in the RTAFs inventory and small, simpler training aircraft built on existing designs. This laid a groundwork for more ambitious projects, and in 1976 the SWDC started development of an indigenous Thai aircraft, the RTAF-5.
A two-seater, the RTAF-5 was intended to be tasked as both trainer aircraft and for use by forward air controllers and reconnaissance. Of all-metal construction, the RTAF-5 had a high-wing configuration with twin booms leading to a single large horizontal tail stabiliser. Powerplant was a single Allison 250 turboprop which produced 420hp and drove a three blade propellor in a pusher configuration. Landing gear was retractable in the nose, but the rear units were fixed.
This might be due to the fact that the one existing example was a prototype and may have been intended for static testing.
For its potential combat role as a light attacker, the RTAF-5 also has four wing hardpoints, for an all-in carrying capacity of 500lbs (227kgs).
Perhaps not surprising then that both of these aircraft were operated by the Royal Thai Air Force at the time, so the assumption that those two designs influenced the RTAF-5 isn’t too unreasonable.
I also need to point out that the sources on this aircraft are extremely limited, and so I can’t confirm if the following is correct, and happy to hear from anyone who can confirm or deny it.
Two RTAF-5s were allegedly built, one for static testing, and one flight trials. Things were delayed a bit when the Thai’s decided to adopt the German RFB Fantrainer in 1982 as their new trainer, somewhat reducing the need for the RTAF-5.
But in October 1984 the new Thai designed and built aircraft first took to the sky. Performance was about what you would expect for a light trainer, with maximum speed recorded at 207mph (333km/h).
What happened next is where it is confused. Some sources say that the Thai’s decided not to continue the program, and the aircraft was placed into the care of the Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok, where I shot this footage.
But according to the Aeroflight website, which seems extremely well informed on the whole of Thailand’s aeronautical efforts, the test program of the RTAF-5 ended in tragedy when the prototype crashed, killing the test pilot. This would mean the aircraft at the museum is the static testbed.
Either way, the Thai’s did not pursue the RTAF-5 and the final example is to be found at the afore mentioned museum, where I will admit it gave me quite a shock when I walked in and had no idea what it was.