Back in 1986, “Top Gun” hit theaters with all the ingredients necessary for a blockbuster smash: Tom Cruise, awesome action scenes, a love story that made it a passable date movie, and of course, the venerable F-14 Tomcat.
You may not think of the Tomcat as a necessary ingredient for the film’s success — but in a lot of ways, the F-14 Maverick and Goose took to the skies in served as an integral character in the film. Some of the most memorable shots in the movie are of the F-14s at the Naval Fighter Weapon School (Top Gun) or aboard the Nimitz class carriers that carry the opening and closing of the film — and with good reason. The F-14 may have been retired from service in 2006, but in many ways, the U.S. Navy could still use some of the capabilities it brought with it to the flight line.
The Tomcat remains significantly faster than the Navy’s newer workhorse, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, each with maximum speeds of Mach 2.3 and Mach 1.6 respectively. The older Tomcat also boasts a greater fuel range than the Super Hornet, making it both capable of intercepting inbound fighters faster and allowing it to stay in the fight for longer. When it comes to defending carriers, an argument could be made that the Tomcat was the superior aircraft — the thing is, protecting our carriers wasn’t really something the Navy was concerned about in 2006 when the fighter was retired.
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F-14 Confirmed! And What is that Logo on the Side of the Tomcat ?#Repost @top.gun.movie ・・・ First Photo of @tomcruise (Maverick) and Miles Teller (Bradley Bradshaw) on set in South Lake Tahoe #topgun #topgun2 #topgunmaverick #topgunmovie #tomcruise #milesteller #usnavy #fighterweaponschool #f14tomcat
At the time, America was only involved in anti-terror and counter-insurgency warfare efforts, with little concern for the near-peer level opponents developing on the horizon. The Hornet and then the Super Hornet both proved to be the more capable multi-purpose fighters and the aging Tomcat platform had become incredibly expensive to maintain. Ultimately, a reduced need for carrier-defense fighters and an effort to cut costs made the decision to retire the Tomcat a logical one for the Navy’s leadership.
But you don’t have to worry about the practical reasoning behind the Tomcat’s demise to appreciate seeing such a kick ass aircraft on screen again — and that’s exactly what it seems like we’ll be getting thanks to new set photos of Tom Cruise climbing aboard a Tomcat during filming for “Top Gun: Maverick.”
The internet is full of rules about the legal usage of photos, so rather than offer you the tid bits I could legally scrape together, here’s a video that shows it all to you:
You can find the rest of Dax Holt’s images here.
Feature image courtesy of YouTube