The 523rd FS was the second squadron of the Canon based 27th Wing to receive F-16s. It was equipped with the F-16 together with its sister squadrons – the 522nd and 524th. In the first place these were block 30 airframes received from various other units. Although the F-16 itself is not optimised for close air support missions, these F-16s were the first to replace A-10 units in theatre. The first F-16s were received in May of 1995 with the final delivery taking place during 1996.
It was not long before the squadron was tasked to take up the demanding rotations in South East Asia. The first deployment already happened in 1998 for an Operation Southern Watch deployment.
USAF F-16C block 30 #87227
belonging to the Crusaders of the 523rd Fighter Squadron, 27th Fighter Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., launches for a combat air patrol mission at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. The 523rd is enforcing the No-Fly, No-Drive zone in Southern Iraq during Operation Southern Watch. [USAF photo by TSgt. James D. Mossman]
The mission of the squadron remained fairly the same during its operational career. At first the squadron shared the same block 30 airframes with the 522nd FS, but from 2003 onwards it was left alone with this block as the 522nd converted to the block 50. From that date onwards all three operational F-16 squadrons at Canon AFB flew different blocks, which is quite remarkable as mostly Staff decides to standardise on one block type to make operations more efficiently. In BRAC 2005 it was decided to close down Canon AFB completely. Although this decision was reversed in the course of 2006, the decision to disband all the bases flying squadrons was kept and so the unit was disbanded in 2007. On May 10th, 2007 the last F-16departed the 523rd FS. The official ceremony to close the 523rd FS was held a few weeks later on May 23rd, 2007.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0340
of the 523rd FS parked on the concrete. [Photo by Frank Ertl]