Air force still flying world's only Peacemaker fleet

Air force still flying world's only Peacemaker fleet

AU-23A Peacemaker planes still in use at Wing 5 in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)
AU-23A Peacemaker planes still in use at Wing 5 in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN: The world's only fleet of Vietnam-war AU-23A Peacemaker aircraft, with the distinctive shark nose decoration, continues to fly out of Wing 5 air force base in Prachuap Khiri Khan province - their mission more peaceful.

Air force commander-in-chief Alongkorn Wannarot on Thursday presided over a ceremony at Wing 5 to mark the 50th anniversary of the air force's fleet of the former gunships.

The air force received 33 of the single-prop AU-23As from the United States in 1972, after the Vietnam War.  Twelve are still flying. They are based at Wing 5 in Prachuap Khiri Khan, the only active fleet of their kind, ACM Alongkorn said.

The air force uses the planes for rainmaking, patrolling and communicating with people through loudspeakers during disasters such as floods.

ACM Alongkorn said the Peacemakers should be good for at least another 15 years, because they were not subject to g-force stresses, unlike the air force's ageing F-5s and F-16s that must be decommissioned because of metal fatigue at the end of their flying life.

The air force had upgraded the old plane's structures as needed and replaced analog equipment with digital dials for pilot safety, ACM Alongkorn said.

Eight of the 12 planes were currently airworthy. The four others were undergoing maintenance and would be back in service by September next year, the air force chief said. 

The Peacemaker was a military version of the civilian high-wing Fairchild Pilatus PC-6 Porter. Only 35 were built, for use by the US air force in Vietnam as gunships for counter-insurgency operations.

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