Top Gun is officially returning, with Tom Cruise revealing in May that Maverick had begun filming.
The original movie, released 32 years ago, remains a stone-cold pop-culture classic, and if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it, chances are they'll list the movie as one of the reasons.
"Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make Top Gun," Commander Ward Carroll, USN (Ret) tells Digital Spy. "Real-life air-to-air combat doesn't lend itself to the silver screen in that it's super technical, very chaotic and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time.
"So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr and the late, great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain moviegoers."
Carroll was an F-14 Tomcat RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) – that's what Goose was – for 15 years during the '80s and '90s aboard various aircraft carriers, and has over 2,800 flight hours. He identified the biggest technical blunders in the movie that would have had the cast and crew court-martialled quicker than you can say, "Ghost Rider requesting a flyby."
1. (Not so) hot under the collar
Not only is the CATCC controller sweating at the beginning of the movie (those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics) but Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they'd only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn't bitch at him to turn it down.
2. Radiation radar
The RIO's radar presentation shows a 360-degree plan position indicator (PPI) display. F-14 Tomcat's radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. A radar that pointed back at the pilot and RIO would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.
3. Air head
Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.
4. RIO prejudice
Goose quips: "Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man – what happened?" So he's a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the 'RIOs as second-class citizens' vibe left the community with the F-4.
5. "Can you repeat the question?"
A hangar isn't the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs. Added to which, anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.
"It was funny to hear these Top Gun instructors saying things like, 'Oh, yeah and they want to do things like have the brief in the hangar and wear cowboy hats'," said Cdr Carroll. "We told them that was stupid so we're going to take it out, and obviously they didn't do that. I think in general, there's always, let's call it a healthy tension between a technical correctness and what is entertainment in terms of the flow and the attention to detail and the cinematography. But I won't kid you, those were good days to be a fighter pilot in terms of the pop-culture landscape. It was great to be us!"
6. Pretty but pointless
The smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel... a daft idea when you're about to enter a dogfight.
7. Too Maverick
Maverick would have lost his wings on the first day of his Top Gun training. He not only does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, an extremely dangerous manoeuvre that's prohibited by Federal Aviation Regulations, but he also breaks the hard deck.
Maverick says: "We weren't below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it." The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically he is saying: "We didn't hit the ground for more than a few seconds..."
8. Slept through the brief
Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. Not in a real exercise: they would have briefed with him, in accordance with safety-of-flight rules.
9. Forgetting the essentials
Both Hollywood and Iceman salute the cat officers ("catapult officers") for launch from the carrier deck with their oxygen masks off.
10. Defying gravity (and hydraulics)
Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman who's been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.
What about the sequel?
Since leaving the US Navy, Carroll has consulted on some serious US military projects, but in recent years he's turned his talents towards writing. He was formally Editor in Chief of military.com and has five best-selling novels under his belt. So what does he think about the sequel?
"Let's just say I'm concerned with how much time this thing's been simmering. It's been in the pot for a very long time. Tom Cruise has had ownership of this property for years and years. He has been to the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River where the test-pilot school is located, and he's met with the commanding officer of the test-pilot school which made me wonder, 'Are they doing something about test pilots or the test community? Is that the plot line?' I've heard some rumours about unmanned aircraft kind of a thing."
It is generally believed that somehow unmanned aerial drones will form part of the plot. However, the photograph that Cruise tweeted back in May had Maverick standing in front of what appears to be an F/A-18F Super Hornet. From the perspective of a more interesting story, the F/A-18F Super Hornet offers a tandem seat variant, like the F-14 and it's now the very last fighter aircraft to do so, thus enabling a plot to develop with partners, a pilot and his – what's now called a Weapon Systems Officer ('WSO' – pronounced 'wizzo') replacing the RIO.
"Top Gun 2 lives in the shadow of a pretty high-impact cultural iconic movie. That's a tough act to follow," Carroll says. "I don't know specifically what Top Gun 2 is going to be about, but I'm concerned that it will do justice to the pedigree of this brand and I don't know how you could but, hey, Godfather 2 was pretty good! And no-one thought Blade Runner 2049 should've been made... and look how good that was."
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