The 23rd squadron received their F-16s as last squadron to be converted onto the type from the venerable F-104G Starfighter in 1982. A note worthy point is that the conversion took place in less then one years time. In 1987 the squadron was also the first within the Belgian Air Force to be swing role, meaning it could perform in air defence as air-to-ground and strike roles. During the early years, a number of exercises where attended. This included Red Flag, FWIT or low level flying at Meknes (Morocco).
With the first major restructuring after the end of the Cold War, the squadron escaped the axe although it lost 6 aircraft of its operational strength. Keeping 12 aircraft operational for NATO duty from 1996 onwards, just as all the other Belgian Air Force F-16 squadrons.
The squadron was also responsible for the strike role together with its sister squadron, the 31st. Although a public secret, it is generally believed that Kleine Brogel AB hosts tactical nuclear devices of the B-61 type. This is a part of NATO deterrence, which is still a key cornerstone of the alliances strategy until this day.
BAF F-16A block 15 #FA-81
of 23 sqn is residing in the static at the Open House at Kleine Brogel AB in 1991. [Photo by Ed Groenendijk]
The most drastic change in the squadron's role since the introduction of the Fighting Falcon came in 1999 when the unit converted to the updated MLU type. This update provided some state-of-the-art technology with the introduction of BVR missiles and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons like the AGM-65 missile and GBU-type weapons.
In 2001 however another reorganization took place called 'Falcon 2000'. As all squadrons had a multi-role task at that time, it proved more efficient to have 18 aircraft in every squadron. What was feared for some months became reality and 23 squadron faced deactivation. It was finally disbanded on March 8th, 2002 transferring all its assets to the 31st squadron, hereby ending 51 years of operations from Kleine Brogel AB.
BAF F-16A block 15 #FA-65
from 23 sqn is waiting for a new mission. Note the absence of the front CARAPACE sensor under the intake. [Photo by Mike Kopack]