Military Aviation

Here’s why this Top Gun: Maverick scene is Impossible According to a real-life Fighter Pilot

Top Gun: Maverick took some creative liberties, and according to one real-life fighter pilot, at least one aerial maneuver in the film is physically impossible.

Almost everyone has seen Top Gun: Maverick.

Top Gun: Maverick is the kind of massive, crowd pleasing blockbuster that felt almost extinct after a global pandemic threatened to end the theatrical experience. Loved by both audiences and critics, the movie has become a phenomenon and one of the most successful movies of 2022 and won the Oscar for Best Sound.

The plot of the movie is about the US Navy being tasked with destroying an unsanctioned uranium enrichment plant, which sits in a deep depression at the end of a canyon. It is defended by SA-3 Goa surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), GPS jammers, and what fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 fighters. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell devises a plan to attack with two pairs of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

Of course, Top Gun: Maverick took some creative liberties, and according to one real-life fighter pilot, at least one aerial maneuver in the film is physically impossible.

According to Slash Gear:

‘The move in question is set during a training sequence. Hangman, played by Glen Powell, is in the foreground of the shot, piloting an F/A-18E. He’s then joined by his wingman, an F/A-18F piloted by Phoenix and Bob, played by Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman. The jet flies onto Hangman’s right flank, coming into frame from the left. What’s interesting is that it’s flying not just on its side, but belly-first.

‘According to fighter pilot C.W. Lemoine, jets can’t do that. Ever. Lemoine served 15 years in the U.S. Air Force and then the Navy Reserves as an F-16 and F/A-18 pilot, under the call sign Mover. Along with F/A-18 instructor pilot Trevor “Gonky” Hartsock, Lemoine broke down the “Top Gun: Maverick” aerial sequences in an eight-part series feature on his YouTube channel. After seeing the aforementioned move, Lemoine demonstrates with his hands and explains, “when a jet goes this way, it looks belly up. This was like a belly-up rejoin to put itself into position.” He and Gonky speculate that it’s possible it was shot in reverse, because a plane can move belly up from a starting position, just not the other way around.’

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

However, as told by Slash Gear, Lemoine had another guess, though, considering the scene’s unrealistic physics.

‘That’s how you know it’s CGI,” he adds. While Tom Cruise is famous for performing his own stunts, and filming the actual cast in the sky was very important to the filmmakers, “Top Gun: Maverick” still used extensive CGI, so Lemoine’s assessment is likely accurate.’

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures / YouTube

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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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