20th FW, 72nd ARS team up to stay sharp

A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing flies an F-16CM Fighting Falcon above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018.

A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing flies an F-16CM Fighting Falcon above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018. The pilot received in-flight refueling from a 72nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 72nd Aircraft Refueling Squadron adjusts a dial on a KC-135R Stratotanker above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018.

A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 72nd Aircraft Refueling Squadron adjusts a dial on a KC-135R Stratotanker above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018. The KC-135 is a refueling aircraft that provides in-flight fuel exchange for aircraft such as F-16CM Fighting Falcons performing the suppression of enemy air defenses mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

Three U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots escort a 72nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018.

Three U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots escort a 72nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018. The pilots practiced aircraft escort as well as in-flight refueling in collaborative training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

Four U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots fly in formation above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018.

Four U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots fly in formation above the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2018. The pilots flew a combined in-flight refueling and escort training mission with a KC-135R Stratotanker to hone their skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- An F-16 Fighting Falcon cannot fly around the world on one tank of fuel. When the mission demands keeping the jets in the air, pilots can refuel with one of the Air Force’s gas stations in the sky.

Pilots from Shaw's 20th Fighter Wing trained with refuelers from the 72nd Air Refueling Squadron, Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base, Indiana to hone their skills.

“It’s important for us, as a suppression of enemy air defenses wing, to stay in the airspace as long as possible and to provide protection for any striker trying to bomb their targets,” said 1st. Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron pilot.

Shaw pilots regularly conduct air refueling training with pilots and crews from other aircraft to make the process second nature.

“Refueling is also important because when we deploy, we cross the ocean,” said Davis. “There is no place to stop to refuel going across the ocean so you need to refuel in-air.”

By training with other units, 20th FW pilots keep themselves sharp, as well as helping its refueling partners stay in practice.

“Seeing other aircraft is really important for us and practicing is important for them,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeff Navarre, 72nd Air Refueling Squadron in-flight refueler. “When deployed, they might need to tank constantly and need to quickly get gas in a critical situation. Refueling in the states makes sure it goes smoothly overseas.”

When the needs of the Air Force mission seem to go outside of its capabilities, it has to be innovative. If 20th FW jets need fuel to stay in the sky, then a unit like the 72nd ARS can fly a fuel tank to them to keep them in the air and bringing the fight to the enemy.