One era ends for F16s, another begins

Airman 1st Class Harlyn Johnson, 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control at Cannon Air Force Base N. M., sands off the "CC" tail marking from a 523rd Fighter Squadron F-16 jet Feb. 5 to prepare it for its new home. The first two Cannon jets are destined for Des Monines Air Guard Station, Iowa. Though some jets are already gone and others will soon depart, the 27th Fighter Wing remains mission ready.

Airman 1st Class Harlyn Johnson, 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control at Cannon Air Force Base N. M., sands off the "CC" tail marking from a 523rd Fighter Squadron F-16 jet Feb. 5 to prepare it for its new home. The first two Cannon jets are destined for Des Monines Air Guard Station, Iowa. Though some jets are already gone and others will soon depart, the 27th Fighter Wing remains mission ready.

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Cannon's 523rd Fighter Squadron jets are making history by being the first jets to leave Cannon in the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) transition. The first two are destined for Des Moines Air Guard Station, Iowa, said Maj. James Mansard, 27th Operations Group, but for now, Cannon pilots and maintainers are staying here.

F-16 aircraft and associated equipment are going to bases needing the assets determined by Air Combat Command (ACC), said Maj. David Nicholson, 27th Maintenance Operations Squadron commander. The transfer will be complete by the end of June and the 524th FS is scheduled to finish its transfer in September. The 522nd Fighter Squadron will begin transferring aircraft upon its Airmen's return from Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) 7/8 this summer and the last F-16 will leave in March 2008.

On June 21, 2006 Air Force officials announced that Air Force Special Operations Command would accept ownership of Cannon AFB and the Melrose Range, effective Oct. 1, 2007. The 27th Fighter Wing will deactivate after its F-16 Fighting Falcons have been reassigned.

The 523rd FS history dates from Feb. 1, 1940, when it was activated at Barksdale Field, La., as the 17th Bombardment Squadron (Light). Its aircraft was the B-18.

The squadron has a 67-year history that is rich in contributions to the fight for freedom. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the 523rd FS took up the gauntlet for homeland defense, flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week for an entire month in August 2002.

In 2003, the 523rd FS added targeting pods and precision guided munitions to its capability. The F-16 squadron proved its new capability by employing Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), Guided Bomb Unit (GBU)-10s, GBU-12s, and GBU-24s during Air Warrior and Combat Hammer deployments.

In June 2004, the 523rd FS became the first F-16 unit to employ the gun against the airborne-towed banner at Combat Archer.

Throughout the transition from Cannon to other bases, the 523rd FS continues to accomplish its mission as a vital part of the 27th FW and remains mission ready, said Lt. Col. Brad Kearney, 523rd FS commander.

"The team, both ops and maintenance, remained ready for any wartime tasking during the AEF 4 period," said Colonel Kearney. "As operations continue for the next few months, our pilots and maintenance professionals will continue to hone their skills during upgrades and normal daily operations."
(The 27th Fighter Wing Historian's office contributed to this article.)