Top Gun: Maverick Will Likely Feature F-35C Joint Strike Fighters

August 27, 2018 9:11 PM
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 is positioned on the bow catapults of the Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) March 17, 2018, in the Atlantic Ocean. US Navy photo

Hollywood’s latest take on naval aviation, Top Gun: Maverick, will likely pair the Navy’s new Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters alongside older Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, in the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster.

A film crew from Paramount Pictures was aboard aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) the same time the Navy began launching F-35C jets off the ship interchangeably with F/A-18E-F Super Hornets as an integrated air wing.

With six F-35Cs operating aboard Lincoln since Aug. 20th, USNI News understands, the film crew almost certainly got an up-close look at the Navy’s newest fighters – operating alongside the Super Hornets, the EA-18G Growlers, the E-2 Hawkeye and the C-2 Greyhound.

Asked what role the new jets may play in the movie, Michael Singer, vice president of marketing and publicity for Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Television, told USNI News “we are not providing any details about the production at this time.”

The Navy was limited in what it could reveal about the filming aboard Lincoln or the sea service’s role in the upcoming movie, expected to hit theaters July 12, 2019.

Seaman Lance Gilinksy stands lookout watch on the fantail of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) while an F-35C Lightning II, from the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 approaches on Dec. 8, 2017. US Navy Photo

Navy spokesman Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News that the level of support the Navy will provide is still being worked out, but “I can tell you that U.S. naval aviators will be flying in this movie.”

He added that Lincoln specifically was chosen for filming because “the ship’s schedule was ideal based on the needs of Paramount films at this time. Additionally, the film crew presence incurred no additional costs, logistics or burden to the U.S. Navy.” Lincoln was due to be at sea to conduct carrier qualifications for pilots in Carrier Air Wing 7.

Several other media outlets reported on Aug. 22 that the Paramount camera crew was onboard the Norfolk-based Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, but the details of the F-35C operations aboard the same ship were not released until Monday.

On May 30, Top Gun star Tom Cruise tweeted a photo of him in a flight suit, holding his signature “Maverick” helmet and looking at a Super Hornet in the background, with the text “feel the need” and the hashtag #Day1. The presence of the Super Hornet in that first glimpse of the movie fueled speculation about whether Maverick would come back as a Super Hornet pilot, and whether the new F35Cs would make it into the film at all.

The day after Cruise’s tweet, film crews for Top Gun: Maverick spent two days filming at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Dan Day told USNI News.

“Film crews from Paramount Pictures have filmed scenes aboard Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California, in May and aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in August during CVW-7 carrier qualifications. Paramount and the Navy are working together to schedule ongoing production coordination at various additional locations, including several Navy bases,” Day said in a statement.
“The Navy supported the filming at North Island and aboard Abraham Lincoln per provisional Production Assistance Agreements signed by Paramount and the Department of Defense, and all future filming will be supported under the terms of a full, signed Production Assistance Agreement that will govern Navy support of the remainder of the production.”

Day added that “our priority will always be warfighting and training combat-ready naval aviation forces that are prepared to win in combat, as well as training the next generation of naval aviators. That being said, we believe we can support the film and simultaneously achieve training objectives. Paramount Pictures will reimburse the Navy for any costs incurred for flying sequences which do not meet training objectives.”

In both the May shoot and last week aboard Lincoln, no actors were present.

For the Navy, the film represents another opportunity to show off naval aviation to the masses.

“The original film was an iconic production that exposed millions of Americans to the professionalism and lethality of Naval Aviators. It also goes without saying TOPGUN was a powerful recruiting aid – inspiring many to ‘Fly Navy,’ and it also boosted pride in Naval Aviation,” Cmdr. Ron Flanders, spokesman for the commander of Naval Air Forces, told USNI News.
“We have agreed to support the sequel because we believe it will once again give Americans a front-row seat to observe the aerial mastery of naval aviators and also will demonstrate the core values of honor, courage and commitment the U.S. Navy demonstrates every day.”

Though Paramount Pictures is remaining mum about the sequel, some details have emerged. Last week news outlets reported that Tom Cruise will be joined by Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly as a single-mom bar owner and female lead, Miles Teller as Lt. j.g. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s son and Top Gun student, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro as a female pilot. Val Kilmer will also be returning to reprise his role as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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