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Fueling Freedom-117th Refuelers Keep Fighters In The Sky

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Faddis

Airmen from the 117th Air Refueling Wing refuel fighters during Savannah Shift, an exercise in Savannah, Georgia, from Sept. 11 to Sept. 24, 2020.

The exercise spanned six days where our KC-135s refueled fighters locked in a red vs. blue format dogfight. The fighters present included F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, and T-38s. On top of the refueling, the 117th provided transportation to more than 150 Airmen, 60 of which were from the 117th.

According to Col. Michael Metcalf, the Vice Wing Commander of the 117th, “It was a great exercise for all of us and enabled dissimilar air combat training for our fighter receivers.”

Capt. Sam Kniskern, a pilot with the 106th Air Refueling Squadron, explained that the fighters weren’t the only ones to receive great training.

“It was phenomenal training for us,” Kniskern said, “We were doing everything from airspace management, fuel management, working with degraded communications and inclimate weather. It was a lot and it came at us really fast, but we still made sure fighters got refueled through all of it.”

In under 15 minutes of Kniskern being off of the ground, they already had fighters needing gas. At times, they would have five fighters behind them, two off each wing and one on the boom. One flight they had 14 contacts in under an hour and a half.

In total, they offloaded approximately 300,000 pounds of fuel - a significant feat due to fighters only receiving 3,000 to 10,000 pounds per refuel. That’s anywhere from 30 to 100 top offs in the time they were there!