Military Aviation

Former US Naval Aviator explains what would have been the career path for Maverick and Viper after the events in Top Gun, assuming both stayed in the Navy

What would have been the career path for Maverick and Viper after the events in Top Gun, assuming both stayed in the Navy?

Paramount announced on Apr. 2, 2020 that “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to Tom Cruise’s 1986 classic, is pushed back to December due to COVID-19 crisis. The anticipated follow-up was scheduled to debut Jun. 24 and will now release Dec. 23, 2020.

However, ever since the first full trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” was released in July 2019, one burning question consumed us: how the hell is Pete “Maverick” Mitchell still flying combat missions as a captain after more than 30 years of service in the US Navy?

In the trailer in fact Maverick is scolded by Ed Harris, who says: ‘You should be at least a two-star admiral by now, yet here you are… Why is that?’ Maverick’s response: ‘It’s one of life’s mysteries.’

Here’s what Navy Personnel Command told USNI News on how Pete “Maverick” Mitchell was still feeling the need for speed as a 57-year-old captain with 30-plus years of service.

‘The most straightforward answer to have a captain with 35-plus years of service is for the captain to have previous enlisted experience. In the case of Maverick, this scenario doesn’t fit with the movie’s timeline – Maverick was a lieutenant in 1986.

‘Another possible scenario occurs if there’s a break in service. For instance, perhaps at some point after the famous incident involving MiGs of uncertain origin over the Indian Ocean, as depicted in the first “Top Gun,” Maverick left active duty and did some time in the Navy Reserve. Then later, he returned to active duty. With more than five years in the reserves, Maverick could be pushing 37 years in uniform.

‘The final scenario for Maverick would be if he were retired but retained in service, a scenario that keeps individuals in uniform after reaching their statutory retirement. Generally speaking, cases of individuals being retired but retained are rare, but not unheard of, according to Naval Personnel Command.’

A new group of U.S. Naval Aviators will join Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer (who returns as Iceman)  in Top Gun Sequel.

The movie in fact will also feature Manny Jacinto (who will be playing a pilot named Fritz in Top Gun sequel) Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell and Monica Barbaro. Many of the details surrounding Top Gun: Maverick have yet to be disclosed, but some of the other casting specifics give us a small indication of the direction of the film. Teller in fact has been cast as Goose’s son and will be Maverick’s new protégé – however the characters have been rumored to have a rocky relationship as well.

Nothing instead is told about a possible return in Top Gun sequel of Tom Skerritt who played the role of ‘Viper,’ Top Gun CO, in the original movie.

“’I knew it would be very successful. I had had previous experiences with films, going back to ‘M*A*S*H,’ and particularly, I had some idea what Tony Scott would be doing as a director,” Skerritt said in August 2019. “And bringing in Tom [Cruise] was a perfect choice, so I had every reason to think this was going to be a classic.”

But what would have been the career path for Maverick and Viper after the events in Top Gun, assuming both stayed in the Navy?

John Chesire, Former U.S. Naval Aviator/combat fighter pilot/TOPGUN grad, answers the answer on Quora.

‘Maverick would have returned to his F-14 fleet squadron after Top Gun to become the squadron’s training officer. After that tour of sea duty, he would rotate to shore duty, most likely as an instructor, either at Topgun, the F-14 Replacement Air Group (RAG), the Navy Training Command, or VX-4, He would probably be too junior for a Washington job.’

Chesire continues:

‘As far as the schools’s CO, Viper, here are the career paths of two former Topgun COs I knew:

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Artwork depicting F-14A NG213 (BuNo 160888) flown by Steve Petro Petrosky and Dave Bio Baranek

Roger Box: 1971-1972 Commanding Officer of TOPGUN. 1972-1973 Commanding Officer of VF-114, an F-4 Fighter Squadron aboard USS Kitty Hawk. Combat deployment to Vietnam. 1973-1975 Director of Flight Test, U. S. Pacific Missile Test Center, Pt. Mugu, CA. 1976-1977 Commander Carrier Air Wing 14. Led a group of 10 aircraft squadrons aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. 1977-1978 Commanding Officer (Captain) USS Hassayampa, (AO-145) U. S. Pacific Fleet. 1979 Naval Air Systems Command, Washington, D.C. Program Coordination Officer (Captain). 1979-1980 Commanding Officer (Captain), USS Ranger (CV-61) U. S. Pacific Fleet. 1980-1981 Chief of Staff (Promoted to Rear Admiral) Commander Naval Air Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego, CA. – Continued – 1959 [sic] 1997 Ruthie Duty Assignment Chronology continued 1981-1983 NATO SHAPE, Mons, Belgium Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Policy, Operations and Readiness Officer (Rear Admiral). 1983-1985 Battle Group Commander, U. S. Atlantic Fleet Battle Force Commander U. S. Sixth Fleet (Rear Admiral). 1985-1987 Plank Owner Director of Operations (Rear Admiral) United States Space Command Colorado Springs, CO. 3/1/87 Retired from active duty.

Ronald ‘Mugs’ Mckeown: He commanded Top Gun for three years before being assigned to other leadership stations, including F-14 Tomcat Project Officer at Naval Air Systems Command, chief of staff for operations with Commander Carrier Group Eight, the battle group that developed electronic warfare tactics and procedures used in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and other conflicts in the Middle East, and chief of staff and executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Material. In addition to the Navy Cross, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross. 

‘He was being assigned as the Executive Officer of an aircraft carrier, but he declined and retired instead,’ Chesire concludes.

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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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