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July 5, 2022 1:43 pm

Israeli Fighter Pilots Weigh In: How Accurate is ‘Top Gun: Maverick’?

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Tom Cruise speaking at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Top Gun: Maverick,” at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

The highly-anticipated film “Top Gun: Maverick,” which saw Tom Cruise reprise his iconic role as top US Navy aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, has proved to be an international success with audiences and critics. But how accurate was its depiction of fighter pilots and real-life aviation missions? Two combat aircrew members of the Israeli Air Force weighed in recently in an interview.

“I think it’s a territory not many people are familiar with,” said Capt. Y, a combat aircrew member in the IAF’s 69th (“Hammers”) Squadron, whose name was withheld for security reasons. “Everyone knows the pilot’s role, but the deeper introduction, the one missing in the eyes of the wider public, is the factor that intrigues and contributes to the success of these kinds of movies. When someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the aviation world watches the movie, he interprets things differently from us — he won’t notice the details we notice when we watch the movie ourselves.”

Capt. D, a combat aircrew member in the IAF’s 119th (“The Bat”) Squadron, added: “The public who watches these movies builds the ‘pilot’s image’ for himself according to what he watches there, but the air force works in a very organized and planned manner, which isn’t always shown in movies.”

“Top Gun: Maverick,” released on May 27, is the sequel to the popular 1986 classic “Top Gun.” In the new film, Cruise’s character returns to the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program after 36 years to train a group of young aviators, including the son of his deceased best friend. As of Monday, the sequel grossed more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide, according to Deadline.

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Commenting on Cruise’s character in the “Top Gun” films, Capt. D laughed as he said, “I’m not sure [he] would have handled being an aircrew member here.”

Meanwhile, Capt. Y applauded the “Top Gun” original and its sequel for its portrayal of the teamwork required in aircraft combat missions. “The meaning of presenting two aircrews giving it their all to complete the mission in the best way possible is significant because it’s important for the public to know,” he explained. “There is no doubt that profound research was done about understanding the role of the pilot and navigator before making the movie.”

“The movie presents the reality, although there are some exaggerated scenes to impress the audience and create a striking image. Yet, we, the aircrew, are dealing with various missions and give our all to succeed,” Capt. Y added. “Our role is wonderful, with a huge value. The movie depicted us in a glamorized and slightly exaggerated way, but it shows our work from a different point of view.”

Overall, said Capt. D, the latest “Top Gun” installment “impressively” achieved its goal of introducing audiences to “something new, appealing, and thrilling that would intrigue the audience and expose them to new worlds.” The film’s “influence,” he predicted, will lead to more pilot recruits for the US Air Force, “and hopefully in Israel too.”

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