Military Aviation

Bravo-20 low pass! Check Out these awesome photos of an F/A-18 Super Hornet buzzing Top Gun: Maverick Crew during the making of the sequel to the 1986 classic

The photos in this post were taken during the filming of Top Gun: Maverick and feature one of the US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet (call sign Bravo-20) strike fighters involved in the making of the movie doing a super low pass.

Taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (MC1) Larry Carlson and published on Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon Facebook page the awesome photos in this post were taken during the filming of Top Gun: Maverick and feature one of the US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet (call sign Bravo-20) strike fighters involved in the making of the movie doing a super low pass.

Usually, the US Navy forbids pilots from flying below 200 feet during training. According to The New York Times, one of the film’s most staggering images is of Tom Cruise in an F/A-18E Super Hornet whooshing just 50 feet above the ground, a height roughly equal to its wingspan. The plane flew so close to the earth that it kicked up dust and made the ground cameras shake. The pilot landed, turned to Cruise, and told the superstar that he’d never do that again.

The imagery of the sky and ground spiraling behind the actors’ heads in Top Gun: Maverick looks like it must be digital wizardry. It isn’t.

Kevin LaRosa II, the movie’s aerial coordinator, and Michael FitzMaurice, its aerial unit director of photography, filmed from above using three aircraft: two types of jets with exterior cameras mounted on wind-resistant gimbals, and a helicopter, which proved best at capturing the speed of actors whizzing by. The same scene could be filmed by one specialized jet using two different lens focal lengths to double the footage captured on a single flight. LaRosa also developed his own aircraft, a shiny black plane with cameras that can withstand up to 3 G’s, once he heard that the long-anticipated sequel was finally going to become a reality.

“That had never been done before,” LaRosa said in a video interview. As he flew next to the cast, LaRosa dodged trees while keeping an eye on the monitors to make sure FitzMaurice, controlling the cameras from the back of the plane, had gotten the shot.

Joseph Kosinski, the director, also spent 15 months working with the Navy to develop and install six cameras in each F-18 cockpit, which meant passing rigorous safety tests and securing the military’s all-clear to remove its own equipment. Luckily, Kosinski said, there were “Top Gun” fans among the commanding officers. “All the admirals that are in charge right now were 21 in 1986, or around there when they signed up,” he said. “They supported us and let us do all this crazy stuff.”

Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the 1986 classic puts Pete “Maverick” Mitchell back in the cockpit to train a new group of young aviators. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

The original Top Gun featured the iconic F-14 Tomcat, the nimble A-4 Skyhawk and the famed, black painted MiG-28 that never actually existed: in fact the part of the MiG-28 was played by the F-5E Tiger II.

As we have already explained in a previous, extensive piece, this time, Maverick and the rest of the Navy crew in “Top Gun: Maverick” will fly F/A-18 Super Hornets and they will face an actual foreign aircraft: the Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO reporting name Felon).

Other aircraft featured in the movie are F-35C Lightning II, the Darkstar (aka SR-72 Son of Blackbird) and Tom Cruise’s personally-owned P-51K Mustang.

Top Gun: Maverick also features the comeback of the legendary Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the real star of the first film.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-103 Jolly Rogers, AG200 / 166620 / 2007

Photo credit: MC1 Larry Carlson / U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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