19 May 2011

I missed Top Gun Day!

I think it was last weekend sometime-the 25th anniversary of the movie 'Top Gun'.

To be honest, I've seen the movie maybe twice. It really wasn't my favorite film. There were some good flight scenes in it, as I recall. And one scene in it was true-the old F-14's, especially the early models, were prone to flat spin flameouts. The -C model had more powerful engines which drastically reduced the incidence of flat spin. The rest of the film? Meh. I wasn't impressed with the use of F-5 Tigers as the fictional 'MiG-28' (which in the NATO parlance would have made it an attack aircraft since 28 is an even number, but I'm probably one of the few who noticed). Also, I'm not a big Tom Cruise fan. And I guess I never noticed the alleged homoerotic undertones, possibly for the same reason that I knew that  MiG-28 wasn't a fighter designation. Naval fighter pilots are a generally cocky bunch (if I was catapulted off a pitching carrier deck, only to perform a controlled crash for a landing later, for a living I'd be full of myself as well) and there was of course a massive amount of Hollywood in the movie as well.

Top Gun, though, did become quite the cultural icon in the mid 1980's. I'd bet most people of age back then had a bomber style jacket with the all the patches, or the Ray-Ban aviator glasses, or could quote endless lines from the film. (Yes, I had a jacket with all the patches-but to a milgeek, it's really nothing special). The movie was made with the full support of the US Navy, and indeed the Air Force and Navy saw spikes in recruiting as Top Gun grew in popularity. I suspect all those prospective kids eager to hop in a Tomcat were disappointed to be chipping, painting, swabbing, and being appointed Captain of the Head. Such is the military life-some soar with the eagles, others clean up after them.

At work, we've given each of our salesmen a callsign name from the film. This came about because one of our salesman is actually named Tom Cruise (no kidding-he looks nothing like the actor but has met him). Naturally he's only been called 'Maverick' about fifty billion times since 1986. So we've got a 'Viper', 'Jester', 'Maverick', 'Cougar', and 'Hollywood'. Why we had to go with those I don't know-I'd've rather used the names from Full Metal Jacket. For that matter, there were five Stooges in the run of The Three Stooges. That would fit much better.

But here 'tis, 25 years later. A decade of conflict has taken a lot of the 'luster' out of the being in the military. People are a little bit more wise to what war is about-not high-tech, sterile air battles, but small ground units slogging around scrub looking not to get blowed up by a roadside bomb. Hard to make that palatable for the big screen. The great old F-14s are out of the service now (before their time, in my opinion), being turned into gate guards, museum exhibits, and scrap aluminum. The big bad Soviet Bear has been replaced with various bearded nutcases with 21st century weapons and 12th century attitudes.

As for the main actors, Anthony (Goose) Edwards got middle-aged and bald, Val (Iceman) Kilmer grew to the size of a Tomcat, and Kelly (Charlie) McGillis got a bit mannish. Fortunately Tom (Maverick) Cruise stayed the same level-headed guy he always was....

And at TOPGUN school, the Navy now teaches the fighter jocks to also (shudder) do s-s-str-str (say it)...strike missions! Moving mud for the grunts? Oh the horror... In addition, instead of being at NAS Miramar outside of beautiful San Diego, California, Fighter Weapons School's been moved...to NAS Fallon, smack in the middle of Nevada, with the rocks and sand and UFOs and the Air Force bastidges doing their Red Flag School nearby. The times, how they changed.

That's the whole Top Gun story as I recollect it. But for a great Naval Aviation movie, I'd rather see the classic The Bridges of Toko-Ri, with William Holden, Grace Kelly, and Mickey Rooney. It has some great shots of early jets and a much better story. Or give me The Final Countdown, where the USS Nimitz is thrown through a time warp to December 6, 1941. If only some author would write about a modern carrier task force getting tossed back in time, I bet he'd sell a lot of books. I'll even watch Hot Shots, featuring a pre-meltdown Charlie Sheen!

I think my favorite homage/spoof of Top Gun is the first appearance of Ace Rimmer in Red Dwarf. We're introduced to the intrepid Space Corps pilot, part Maverick, part James Kirk, and a bit of James Bond, in the episode Dimension Jump. Catch it here-they even put in a 'Take My Breath Away'-ish theme for our hero. What a guy!

But if you feel the need...the need for a callsign to paint on your helmet, or on the side of your car or boat or lawnmower, just click on the Top Gun callsign generator and get yourself a moniker! Share it with the class.

yankeedog (Wizzard) out.



  1. I think I prefer the Red Dwarf version ;)
    Smoke me a kipper!

  2. Lt. Roger 'Renegade' Ross

    WTF ... I was sure Rhino was gonna' pop-up.


  3. Bangar-Or, when the real Rimmer took over as Ace:

    'Stoke me a clipper. I'll be back for Christmas.'

    Rhino-'Renegade' Ross works well.

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