The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) marked a historic moment on September 1, 2023, as it officially commissioned its newly acquired Aeronautics Dominator XP Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) during a grand induction ceremony at the 302nd Squadron, Wing 3 Watthana Nakhon, Sa Kaeo Province. This event represents a significant leap in the RTAF’s capabilities, as it introduced its first MALE UAV unmanned aircraft, the Dominator XP, into active service. These state-of-the-art UAVs were procured from Aeronautics Defense System Ltd. in Israel, with a budget allocation of $27 million (895,000,000 baht), in a deal initiated back in 2018. The successful completion of this procurement reflects the RTAF’s commitment to modernizing its aerial capabilities.
The Dominator XP UAVs will play a pivotal role in enhancing the RTAF’s unmanned reconnaissance capabilities. These UAVs are now stationed with the 302 Squadron, Wing 3 Watthana Nakhon, Sa Kaeo Province, marking the formation of the first all-UAV squadron in the Royal Thai Air Force. The induction ceremony was held at Wing 4 Takhli, Nakhon Sawan Province, where Squadron 302 coexists with Squadron 402. Squadron 402 is primarily focused on surveillance and training with aircraft like the Diamond DA42MPP/MNG, which shares the same foundational principles as the training aircraft Diamond DA42. Publicly available images from previous presentations and PR materials of the Royal Thai Air Force from September to December 2022 have revealed that Squadron 302, Wing 3, received the third battalion of Dominator XP UAVs.
The Diamond DA42 Twin Star is a four seat, twin engine, propeller-driven airplane developed and manufactured by the Chinese-owned, Austria-based company Diamond Aircraft Industries. It was Diamond’s first twin engine design, as well as the first new European twin-engine aircraft in its category to be developed in over 25 years. In 2004, the DA42 became the first diesel-powered fixed-wing aircraft to perform a non-stop crossing of the North Atlantic. Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd developed a twin-engine medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) version of the DA42, designated as the Aeronautics Defense Dominator and first flown in July 2009. Has an endurance of 28 hours with a 408 kg (899 lb) payload and speed of 140–354 km/h (75–190 knots) to a maximum altitude of 9,144 m (30,000 ft). The 1800 kg (MTOW) Dominator can stay airborne for 24 hours and carry a payload of 415 kg. Introduced in 2011, Dominator serves 2 military undisclosed customers.
In addition to the Dominator XP UAVs, the ceremony also celebrated the entry into service of the BR1 Aeronautics Aerostar BP UAVs by Squadron 302 and the unmanned surveillance aircraft and training variant BR.TF1 (RTAF U-1) by Squadron 301, both stationed at Wing 3. The induction of these advanced UAVs represents a significant milestone in the modernization efforts of the Royal Thai Air Force, further strengthening its capabilities and readiness for the challenges of the future. The RTAF’s commitment to adopting cutting-edge technology, such as the Dominator XP, demonstrates its dedication to safeguarding the nation’s security and its position as a formidable force in the region. With these new assets in place, the Royal Thai Air Force is poised to continue its mission of ensuring the safety and sovereignty of the Thai skies.