Top Gun 'inspired by Royal Navy'

Discuss air warfare, doctrine, air forces, historic campaigns, etc.
  • Author
  • Message

Asif Editor Editor

  • Posts: 3063
  • Joined: 23 Aug 2003, 12:02

Unread post23 Mar 2009, 14:30

The Telegraph wrote:Top Gun fighter pilot academy set up by British

The American Top Gun fighter pilot academy was inspired by the Royal Navy elite flying instructors, a new book has revealed.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:18PM GMT 22 Mar 2009

Despite the all-American hero imagery of the film starring Tom Cruise, the US Navy's expertise was in large part due to their instruction by aviators from the Fleet Air Arm.

When British pilots arrived at Miramar airbase in California in the early 1960s the Americans were losing a large number of dogfights in their multi-million Phantom fighters to the enemy's relatively "cheap" MiG 21s.

The tuition from the British pilots, all graduates of the intense Air Warfare Instructors school in Lossiemouth, Scotland, led to the Americans dominating the skies, the military historian Rowland White has revealed in Phoenix Squadron.

It was then that the their Naval Warfare Academy became known as Top Gun.

"Through the instructors on exchange at Miramar the AWIs methods made their way into perhaps the most well-known programme in the history of naval aviation: Topgun," he said.

Foremost among the Royal Navy pilots was Lt Commander Dick Lord's whose work on the tactics group was the founding on which the "original eight Topgun instructors built their course".

The British pilot, originally from South Africa, introduced simple things such as writing notes on the knee pad of his flying suit during air combat exercises

The Americans trusted Lord enough to give him access to a secret document that played a key part in his writing the Air Combat Manoeuvring manual for the US pilots.

As shown in the film Top Gun the pilots at Miramar were given a structure on air-to-air combat that finished with a final sortie of two pilot instructors against two students. In the film this was when Tom Cruise lost his observer following a difficult manoeuvre which occasionally happened as pilots flew their aircraft to the limit.

Lord's expertise was so well regarded that he was asked to give lectures to US fighter pilots all along the West Coast.

While the former Royal Navy officer, who married his British wife at Miramar, said he enjoyed the film he did not recognise the characters until his wife told him that the big-talking naval fighter pilots were most accurately depicted.

Although the British did their best to fit in their humour prevailed. Rather than call signs of Viper and Maverick they came up with Dogbreath, Alien and Cholmondley

White's book is the first to reveal the British role in Top Gun.

"It is remarkable that any history book on Top Gun studiously avoids any British involvement," Lord, 72, told The Daily Telegraph. "One finds this quite a bit on American history and certainly here they have not given us due justice."

Lt Cdr Paul Waterhouse, 72, another Fleet Air Arm officer at Miramar with Lord, said the British contribution of a dozen instructors was a substantial help to the Americans struggling for aerial success over Vietnam although it went unnoticed by Downing Street.

"We were helping these guys in the Vietnam war because they were going straight from Miramar to fight the enemy who were flying pretty useful Mig 21s.

"If Harold Wilson knew he would not have been happy."

He added: "The Americans did not have the experience to use the Phantom properly and you cannot train experience

"I felt a swell of pride when I first saw the Top Gun film because I knew that we were behind it."

Another British instructor, Cdr Doug Macdonald , 67, said the Americans "were delighted to have experienced people teach them".

He added: "I think the movie Top Gun is great but it's thanks to us Brits that they could make the film."

Soon after the Top Gun course began a Phantom flown by one of the first students shot down a MiG-21, the first time a US Navy had succeeded in aerial combat in two years.

source: ... itish.html
Asif Shamim Editorial staff & Patch Gallery Administration


Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 406
  • Joined: 24 Nov 2004, 02:03

Unread post08 Apr 2009, 08:06

To me it doesn't make much sense, to employ RAF pilots to enhance training of USN pilots. Back then the USN and USAF still believed their was no need for ACM. The USAF had Gen. Robin Olds, John Boyd ("40 second Boyd") and many others who had combat experience from WW-2 and Korea. So if the Navy needed experience people in ACM, they had some experienced pilots as well as pilots from the USAF. This time period Gen. Olds was still being chastised for advocating ACM!!
As for this who thing starting in the early 1960's, the Gulf of Tonkin incident did not until August 02, 1964. US troops did not entire the combat arena in mass until 1965.
The first confirmed kill claims occurred on;
April 04, 1965 a NVPAF J-4 (Su-22M) used his 37/23mm cannons to kill a USAF F-105D. A F-105D used its 20mm cannon to kill a MiG-17. It was many months before it could be clearly said that the fight over North Viet Nam was at parity.

I agree with a former F-14A pilot, I have known for awhile, "Heyjoe" on posting number #7. The URL is; ... p?t=147748


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1395
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2009, 16:00
  • Location: UK

Unread post08 Apr 2009, 13:52

I'm very sceptical of this 'news' article, I mean the article smacks of an elitest British mentality as if we alone were the tutors of American air combat and the deciding factor and the only ones who really knew how to fly jets properly.

On a side note; I hear alot of this sort of tripe in this country, just the other day I had an ex Army tanker trying to tell me us Brits did the lions share of the armoured combat in the first Gulf war for example and to quote "we commanded and ran the whole thing" and from a currently serving Royal Navy aqquaintence a while ago who proudly exclaimed "The RN is still the most powerful navy in the world today" I choose to stay silent on both occasions but it really does show the extent of British 'elitest/better than you' mentality.


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1422
  • Joined: 28 Feb 2008, 02:33

Unread post08 Apr 2009, 15:14

avon1944 wrote:The first confirmed kill claims occurred on;
April 04, 1965 a NVPAF J-4 (Su-22M) used his 37/23mm cannons to kill a USAF F-105D. A F-105D used its 20mm cannon to kill a MiG-17. It was many months before it could be clearly said that the fight over North Viet Nam was at parity.

The NVPAF didn't operate the Su-22 back then.

The MiG-17 kill was made by an F-100D with the 4x20mm M-39 cannons. The F-105 has a 20mm M-61 Gatling gun style cannon.

The whole thing started out poorly because F-105's & F-100's were orbiting over the target area at 300-350 knots conserving fuel and waiting to get shot at. It wasn't lack of aircraft parity, it was lack of brain parity.

Why the USAF didn't employ the gunless F-4 in a hi-lo mix with the F-100, much like the MiG-21/MiG-19 Kuban, still eludes me.



Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 369
  • Joined: 05 Mar 2009, 06:01
  • Location: Raleigh, NC

Unread post08 Apr 2009, 19:22

In the British vernacular I say "Bollocks!"
FB-111A Pease AFB 82-87
A-10A Suwon AB ROK 87-88
FB-111A/F-111G Pease AFB 88-90
User avatar


Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 893
  • Joined: 20 Jan 2008, 16:50
  • Location: Dodge City, Moscowchusetts

Unread post09 Apr 2009, 00:18

I thought the Ault report was the reason the Navy Fighter Weapons School was started! True, they had little resources to scrape up for the program at first- but were the Royal Navy pilots that instrumental in it as a whole? It sounds more like they added more instructors to the schedules if anything. No disrespect intended, but how much experience did the Royal Navy have at shooting down MiGs during that time period(or any other aircraft)- and where did it occur?
Why is the vodka gone?
Why is the vodka always gone... oh- that's why!
Hide the vodka!!!

Scorpion1alpha Moderator Moderator

  • Posts: 1659
  • Joined: 21 Oct 2005, 00:47

Unread post11 May 2009, 16:28

Top Gun 'inspired by Royal Navy'

So it's really the Brits to blame for this?


*Just another excuse to post this again*


Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 760
  • Joined: 15 Dec 2006, 00:28

Unread post11 May 2009, 16:57

I think the news story seems to be somewhat of an exaggeration.
The Telegraph wrote:Top Gun fighter pilot academy set up by British

They seem to be suggesting it was all the British’s idea and control. I have a feeling that was not the case; I suspect it was a mutual idea and a matter of cooperation/teamwork.

Scorpion1alpha wrote:So it's really the Brits to blame for this?

Can we please somehow get them to take the blame for “Iron Eagle” and “Fire Birds”. ;) :devil:
How many F-22s and JSFs could have been bought with $700 billion? Correct that.

Make that $1.7 Trillion.

Return to Air Power

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests