F-16 Reference

23rd Fighter Squadron ( USAFE)

" Fighting Hawks"  

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23 FS " Fighting Hawks" ( USAFE)
Version: F-16C/D block 50
Role: Multirole, SEAD, Strike
Tailband: Blue
Motto: Once a hawk, always a Hawk.
Badge: N/A
Disbanded on August 13th, 2010.

Sideways profile for the 23rd FS in 2005 with unit markings on the tail.

F-16 History

The history of the F-16 within the 23rd TFS was quite unique. The squadron was a dedicated Wild Weasel unit flying the venerable F-4E and G versions of the Phantom. They were used in the so-called ‘hunter/killer’ role with the F-4G hunting SAM sites and the F-4E killing them with the AGM-45 Shrike and later AGM-88 Harm missiles. In the late 1980’s the F-4E was in urgent need for replacement. In early 1987 the first small mouth block 30 airframes started to arrive. Although the introduction of the F-16 meant a serious upgrade compared to the old F-4E, this version of the F-16 still wasn’t able to take the SEAD role completely on its own, still relying on the eliminating skills of the F-4G. The incorporation of the SEAD task was only reached with the introduction of the block 50 in 1990.

At the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 all the F-4G airframes were transferred to the 81st FS with the 23rd becoming an all F-16 unit. With the dwindling down of USAF squadrons after the end of the Cold War, Hahn AFB was closed and its units disbanded. The nuclear strike role therefore needed a new host. The 23rd was selected to carry on this task. In 1994 the first brand-new block 50 airframes started to arrive with the squadron.

USAF F-16C block 50 #91418 from the 23rd FS is spotted in the static display at RIAT 2006 on July 15th, 2006. [Photo by Asif Shamim]

Over the years the squadron became actively involved in contingency operations throughout Europe and Asia. The squadron deployed on numerous occasions to the Middle East for Operation Northern or Southern Watch missions. Also the war on the Balkan was an operational scene for the squadron.

Rumors that a change was due at Spangdahlem AB already erected in 2009, but the details were kept in secrecy. In 2010 it became clear that a reorganization would take place with both resident units being melted together to one. In the end it was decided to disband both the 22nd and 23rd FS and reactivate the 480th FS to be the sole F-16 squadron at Spangdahlem AB. The squadron finally disbanded on August 13th, 2010.

USAF F-16C block 50 #91-0407 from the 23rd FS is parked on the concrete at Karup AB on March 21st, 2006. [Photo by Erik Frikke]

Aircraft Markings History

1987 - 1990

On top of the tail was a blue tailband with white text 'Fighting Hawks' included. In the center the tailcode 'SP' (from Spangdahlem) with the serial underneath and the 52nd TFW logo above in gray subdued colors. Here the wing jet is shown.

1990 - 1996

The overall lay-out remained the same, but the subdued 52nd TFW logo was removed from the tail.

1996 - 2010

The general lay-out remained the same but the 52nd FW logo was inserted between the tailband and tailcode. It was painted in subdued colors.

Unit History

  • 1940: Activation of the squadron in Kelly, Texas
  • 1940: XP-37 (part of 36 PG)
  • 1940: XP-37 (Brooks Field, Texas)
  • 1940: P-36 'Hawk' (Langley Field, Virginia)
  • 1941: P-40 'Warhawk' (Losey Field, Puerto Rico)
  • 1941: P-40 'Warhawk' (St. Croix [Virg. Isl.])
  • 1941: P-40 'Warhawk' (Losey Field, Puerto Rico)
  • 1941: P-40 'Warhawk' (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico)
  • 1942: P-39 'Airacobra'
  • 1942: P-39 'Airacobra' (part of 36 FG)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Morrison Field, Florida)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Mitchel Field, New York)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Charleston, South Carolina)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Galveston Field, Texas)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Dalhart Field, Texas)
  • 1943: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Bruning Field, Nebraska)
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Kingsnorth [Eng.])
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Brucheville [Fr.])
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Le Mans [Fr.])
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Athis [Fr.])
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Juvincourt [Fr.])
  • 1944: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Le Culot [Bel.])
  • 1945: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Aachen [Ger.])
  • 1945: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Niedermennig [Ger.])
  • 1945: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Kassel [Ger.])
  • 1946: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (Bolling Field, District of Columbia)
  • 1946: Deactivated
  • 1946: Activation of the squadron in Howard [Pan.]
  • 1946: P-47D 'Thunderbolt' (part of 36 FG)
  • 1947: F-80 'Shooting Star'
  • 1948: F-80 'Shooting Star' (Furstenfeldbruck [Germ.])
  • 1950: F-84E 'Thunderjet' (part of 36 FBG)
  • 1952: F-84E 'Thunderjet' (Bitburg AB [Germ.])
  • 1953: F-86 'Sabre'
  • 1954: F-86 'Sabre' (part of 36 FDW)
  • 1956: F-100 'Super Sabre'
  • 1958: F-100 'Super Sabre' (part of 36 TFW)
  • 1961: F-105 'Thunderchief'
  • 1966: F-4D 'Phantom II'
  • 1971: F-4D 'Phantom II' (part of 52 TFW, Spangdahlem AB [Germ.])
  • 1980: F-4E 'Phantom II'
  • 1983: F-4G 'Phantom II' (simultaneous)
  • 1987: F-16C/D 'Fighting Falcon' (simultaneous)
  • 1991: F-16C/D 'Fighting Falcon' (part of 52 FW)
  • 1992: F-16C/D 'Fighting Falcon' (part of 52 OG)
  • 2010: Disbanded


' Desert Storm'
Incirlik AB, Turkey (December of 1990 to March of 1991)
Participated in the combat phase of this operation. It was a combined F-16 and F-4 force. The squadron flew over 1,000 missions in the defense suppression, combat air patrol and interdiction role.
' Deny Flight'
Aviano AB, Italy (July 1st, 1993 to December 20th, 1995)
This was an operation in support of the UN-led UNPROFOR troops stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Different nations took part in this operation.
' Deliberate Force'
Aviano AB, Italy (August 25th, 1995 to September 20th, 1995)
This operation only lasted for a couple of weeks. It was to show force to the Serbian authorities. It continued with Operation Deny Flight afterwards. The 23rd flew a total of 224 sorties during this operation.
' Desert Fox'
Ahmed Al Jaber AB, Kuwait (December 16th, 1998 to December 19th, 1998)
Operation Desert Fox was a four day operation against the Iraqi military to take out so-called weapons of mass destruction production sites. Mostly night missions were flown by the squadron. During this operation the 23rd provided SEAD duties for all aircraft, being the only such unit in theatre.
' Allied Force'
Aviano AB, Italy (March 24th, 1999 to June 10th, 1999)
Operation 'Allied Force' was the codename for the almost three month long air strikes against Serbia. The 23rd FS flew over 1,000 sorties during this operation and fired a total of 191 HARM missiles to destroy Serbian radar sites.
' Southern Watch'
Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia (October of 2000 to December of 2001)
Flew both Operation Southern Watch and Northern Watch missions. Its sister squadron - the 22nd FS - took over this mission.
' Enduring Freedom'
Spangdahlem AB, Germany (September of 2001 to August of 2002)
The squadron flew C-17 escort missions who flew missions into Afghanistan. The squadron flew a high number of such escorts during this period, being on a 100 hour alert for these kind of missions.
' Northern Watch'
Incirlik AB, Turkey (April of 2002 to July of 2002)
Operation Northern Watch was a US European Command Combined Task Force (CTF) who was responsible for enforcing the United Nations mandated no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq. This mission was a successor to Operation Provide Comfort which also entailed support for the Iraqi Kurds.
' Iraqi Freedom'
Al Udeid AB, Qatar (January of 2003 to April of 2003)
Flew SEAD missions over Iraqi territory. This deployment the squadron send 220 airmen into the operation. The squadron played a key role during the 27-day air war by fulfilling it's 'Wild Weasel' mission of suppressing enemy air defenses and destroying Iraqi radar sites.
' Iraqi Freedom'
Balad AB, Iraq (September of 2004 to January of 2005)
This deployment was a rotation for AEF 10. The squadron deployed a total of 280 airmen into theatre. The mission lasted for three months and was one of the largest for the squadron.
' Air Policing Baltic States'
Siauliai AB, Lithuania (October 12th, 2005 to December 31st, 2005)
This operation started when Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia joined NATO. These countries don't have fighters themselves and rely upon NATO for their air coverage.
' Iraqi Freedom'
Al Udeid AB, Qatar (January 13th, 2008 to May 23rd, 2008)
Another three-month rotation was executed flying CAP missions over Iraq as part of AEF1/2 (Cycle 7).
' Iraqi Freedom'
Balad AB, Iraq (May 10th, 2009 to September 8th, 2009)
This marked the final deployment for the 23rd FS as part of AEF9/10 (Cycle 7).

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