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Top Gun: Maverick – the fighter jets that make the movie

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 month ago
The long-awaited sequel to Top Gun finally soars into cinemas today. Looking more darkly dramatic than its 1986 cult classic predecessor, Navy test pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) returns to wow audiences with high-flying, high-risk and high-octane antics. There are practical stunts and technical accomplishments aplenty. In typical fashion, Cruise will be flying the fighter jets himself, whilst new 6K cameras and never seen before technology capture the breath-taking fighter jet action sequences. 

So, what about those planes? Fans of the Top Gun franchise who want to see more of the jet fighters spotlighted by the original film won't be disappointed. The upcoming sequel will see its characters using three iconic fighter jets to engage in extraordinary aeronautical acrobatics. 

It's all very exciting news for plane aficionados. But what does this mean for the average action cinema fan who can’t tell their F-45 from their F-35? Buckle up as we flyby the planes that make the movie. 

Boeing F/A 18E/18F Super Hornet

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is Top Gun: Maverick’s primary fighter jet. In a move that brings a modern feel to a nostalgic film, Maverick will now be (co-)piloting the F/A-18F Super Hornet jet which is a far newer model than the F-14 Tomcat used in the original. 

Maverick’s new aircraft was introduced in the mid-1990s. The aircraft provides a more diverse role than the F-14 Tomcat, as it has both air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities, with its primary function being the suppression of enemy air defences. 

The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-enginecarrier-capablemultirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E is a single-seat and the F/A-18F is designed for a two-person crew, both seats have pilot capabilities; however, the back seat is generally for a Weapons System Officer. 

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 Tomcat was the darling of the US Navy. Developed for the United States Navy’s Naval Flight Experimental (VFX) program in the late 1960s, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was introduced in 1974. The carrier-capable supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat, twin-tail, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft was designed to incorporate the air combat experience learned during the Vietnam War, and the F-14 led the American “Teen Series” fighters that included the F-15 EagleF-16 Fighting Falcon, and the F/A-18 Hornet.

1986 Maverick's trusty F-14 appeared in the Top Gun 2 trailer so, it is safe to assume that it will have a presence in the film. However, despite a top speed of 2485 km/h, which remains phenomenally fast even today, the Tomcat was retired fourteen years ago due to technological advancements. As such, we doubt that this retired plane will be the star of the show but we may see Maverick take to the skies in his famed F-14 once more.  

North American P-51 Mustang

Trailers for the film, first released back in 2020, showed a WWII-era P-51 Mustang owned by Cruise himself. An avid pilot both on and off-screen, he’s been frequently spotted flying the vintage aircraft, often taking his friends with him.

The P-51 Mustang was a long-fighter used extensively throughout World War II and in the Korean War. Originally launched in 1940, variations of the aircraft saw active service throughout the early 1940s as reconnaissance, bomber escort and more. Post-war, the designation was changed to F-51, to reflect the ‘fighter’ nature of the aircraft rather than ‘pursuit’.

His particular aircraft, P-51 MUSTANG/44-12840, was delivered to the US Army Air Force back in 1944, though there is no known record of active service during the war. In 1946 it was donated to the Civil Air Patrol and then moved into private ownership in the late 1970s. It late underwent a period of extensive restoration in the 1980s and 90s and is one of only two flyable F-6K Mustangs in the world at the moment, flown as ‘Montana Miss’.

Want to own your own P-51 Mustang? You’ll have to bid pretty high (in excess of $4 million) to tempt Cruise to part with his prized airborne possession that’s been under his, well, wing, since 2001. But if money is tight, you could always go for the cheaper option and build your own…

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