522d Special Operations Squadron

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522d Special Operations Squadron
522d Special Operations Squadron - MC-130J Commando II.jpg
A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., 29 September 2011
Active1940–1945; 1946–1007; 2011–2014
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Rolespecial operations
Part ofAir Force Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQCannon AFB, New Mexico
Motto(s)Air Commando (2011-2014)
EngagementsSouthwest Pacific Theater
Mediterranean Theater of Operations
Korean War
Vietnam War[1]
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm[1]
522d Special Operations Squadron emblem (approved 25 June 1951)[1]522d Special Operations Squadron - Emblem.png
522d Fighter-Bomber Squadron emblem (World War II)[2]522 Fighter-Bomber Sq emblem.png

The 522d Special Operations Squadron, nicknamed the Fireballs, was a unit of the United States Air Force. It was part of the 27th Special Operations Group, the flying component of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base. It was the first to operate the MC-130J Commando II.

The 522d was originally organized in 1940 as the 16th Bombardment Squadron. When the United States entered World War II the squadron was deploying to the Philippines. Its ground echelon fought as infantry, with most members surrendering at Bataan, while the air echelon fought in the Netherlands East Indies, earning the squadron three Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC)s. In May 1942, the squadron reformed at Hunter Field, Georgia. It deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, where it was redesignated the 522d Fighter-Bomber Squadron and was awarded an additional three DUCs. Following V-E Day, the squadron served in the occupation forces in Germany until the fall of 1945, when it returned to the United States and was inactivated.

The 522d was reactivated in 1946 and assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) as a fighter escort unit. During the Korean War, the squadron deployed to Japan and Korea and was awarded its seventh DUC. In 1957, SAC transferred its fighter squadrons to Tactical Air Command and the squadron became the 522d Tactical Fighter Squadron the following year. It conducted numerous deployments to bases in Europe and the Pacific, including one to Thailand, where it again saw combat during the Vietnam War. The squadron was inactivated in 2007, when its parent wing converted from the fighter to the special operations mission.

The squadron was reactivated in 2012 as a special operations unit, but was inactivated in 2014 and its mission, personnel and equipment were transferred to the 9th Special Operations Squadron.


World War II[edit]

The 522d was originally constituted in 1939 as the 16th Bombardment Squadron (Light) and activated on 1 February 1940.[1] It was stationed at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and later at Hunter Field, Georgia, before moving to Luzon in the Philippines in 1941. After war began between the United States and Japan, the unit's air echelon operated in Australia. When American units in the Philippines surrendered, ground elements of the unit were part of the Bataan Death March.

The unit was redesignated the 522d Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 23 August 1943 and then the 522d Fighter Squadron, Single Engine, on 30 May 1944. During World War II, it was one of the most decorated U.S. Army Air Force units. The unit later served in conflicts such as the Korean and Vietnam wars, and flew almost a dozen different aircraft in support of various missions.

Strategic Air Command[edit]

522d Fighter-Escort Squadron F-84Gs, Bergstrom AFB, Texas, 1952

Tactical Air Command[edit]

522d TFS F-100D Super Sabre - 56-3150 about 1960

Air Combat Command[edit]

522d F-16C Block 50P 92-3921

The 522d Fighter Squadron inactivated in 2007 when the 27th Fighter Wing became the 27th Special Operations Wing.[3]

Special operations[edit]

The 522d Special Operations Squadron was reactivated at Cannon Air Force Base on 7 April 2011. The first to be equipped with the Lockheed MC-130J Commando II special operations aircraft, it was tasked with supporting special operations commanders through day and night low-level infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, and air refueling of helicopters.[1][4] In 2012, it achieved initial operational capability.

The unit was inactivated and a ceremony marking this was held on 9 December 2014. The squadron's personnel, aircraft, and equipment were transferred to the 9th Special Operations Squadron,[5] which moved to Cannon without personnel or equipment from Hurlburt Field.


  • Constituted as the 16th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 22 December 1939
Activated on 1 February 1940
Redesignated: 522d Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 23 August 1943
Redesignated: 522d Fighter Squadron, Single Engine on 30 May 1944
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
  • Activated on 20 August 1946
Redesignated 522d Fighter Squadron, Two Engine on 22 July 1947
Redesignated 522d Fighter Squadron, Jet on 1 December 1949
Redesignated 522d Fighter-Escort Squadron on 1 February 1950
Redesignated 522d Strategic Fighter Squadron on 20 January 1953
Redesignated 522d Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 1 July 1957
Redesignated 522d Tactical Fighter Squadron on 1 July 1958
Redesignated 522d Fighter Squadron on 1 November 1991
Inactivated on 30 September 2007
  • Redesignated 522d Special Operations Squadron on 1 March 2011
  • Activated 7 April 2011[6]
  • Inactivated c. 9 December 2014[5]


  • 27th Bombardment Group (later, 27th Fighter-Bomber Group, 27th Fighter Group), 1 February 1940 – 7 November 1945
  • 27th Fighter Group (later 27 Fighter-Escort Group), 20 August 1946 (attached to 27th Fighter-Escort Wing after 6 August 1951)
  • 27th Fighter-Escort Wing (later 27th Strategic Fighter Wing, 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, 27th Fighter Wing), 16 June 1952
Attached to unknown, 6 September–18 December 1958
Attached to TUSLOG, 18 October 1959 – 22 February 1960 and 5 February–15 June 1962
Attached to 405th Fighter Wing, 13 February–c. 7 March 1961, 8 August–c. 20 September 1964 and 15 August–25 November 1965
Attached to 2d Air Division, 12 December 1962 – c. 15 February 1963, 16 March–6 May 1964 and c. 20 September–15 November 1964
  • 27th Operations Group, 1 November 1991
  • Twelfth Air Force, 1 October 2007 – 21 December 2007 (attached to 712th Operations Group (Provisional))
  • 27th Special Operations Group, 7 April 2011 – c. 9 December 2014[6][5]





  1. ^ a b c d e Dollman, TSG Davis (21 October 2016). "Factsheet 522 Special Operations Squadron (AFSOC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  2. ^ Watkins, pp. 18-19
  3. ^ Wilson, Steven (1 October 2007). "Last deployment for Fireballs, 27th Fighter Wing". 36th Operations Group Public Affairs. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  4. ^ "522nd Special Operations Squadron". Cannon Air Force Base. 27 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Slack, Chip (9 December 2014). "Earning a new name". 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b Lineage, including assignments, through 19 August 2016 [sic] in Dollman.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Station number in Johnson.
  8. ^ Station number in Endicott.
  9. ^ Station information in Dollman, except as noted.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.