Top Gun - 5 Things You Didn't Know

'Top Gun' turns 30: Why fighter pilots might soon exist only in movies

It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years since “Top Gun” hit theaters and young men with dreams of the fighter pilot life  signed up for the military in droves.

As fans remember the movie starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer, it’s news of a sequel that has hearts racing.

Recently, fans of the ‘80s hit got the confirmation that Cruise and Kilmer have both agreed to be a part of “Top Gun 2.”  According to The Vine, the movie was to feature Cruise in a minor part with his character “Maverick” making an appearance in the film, but plans changed when Cruise said he wanted a bigger role.

The plot  for the sequel is said to mirror the real-life shift in air combat which the last 30 years of technology has produced.  According to reports, the film will see Cruise’s character “Maverick” not focusing on flying airplanes that cost millions of dollars, but, instead, hunting down people who use drones to attack.

"It is very much a world we live in today where it's drone technology, and fifth-generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we're actually going to produce, so it's really [about] exploring the 'end of an era' of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today," Skydance Productions CEO David Ellison said last year when talking about the film.  

The idea for a sequel that  focused on drones is one that has been in the works. Producer Tony Scott was interviewed in 2011 about a possible sequel to the movie that grossed $356 million worldwide. He told Hitfix that it would focus on the U.S.  military’s evolving technology.

"It's a whole different world now," Scott said. "These computer geeks – these kids play war games in a trailer in Fallon, Nevada and if we ever went to war or were in the Middle East or the Far East or wherever it is, these guys can actually fly drones."

While Scott had planned for a sequel and had worked on the concept for the movie, he will not be a part of the next “Top Gun.” Scott died in 2012.

Scott’s opinion of the future of warfare was more on  the mark then he may have known. In August of last  year, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the new F-35 Lightning II “should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly.”

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At last year’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 conference, Mabus talked about the future of warfare and about a new  deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for wnmanned Systems who would help take the Navy into the next generation of drone weapons.

“With  unmanned technology, removing a human from these machines can open up room to experiment with more risk, improve systems faster and get them to the fleet quicker,”  Mabus said at Sea-Air-Space. “While unmanned technology itself is not new, the potential impact these systems will have on the way we operate is almost incalculable... .”

Screenwriter Justin Marks is writing the screenplay that revolves around drone technology and fifth-generation fighters. “It's really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today,” he  said.

In April, Marks told Creative Screenwriting that, "Just researching the Joint Strike Fighters, the F-35, the different notions of where the Navy is today was a very interesting insight and it started to give me ideas of what Top Gun would represent in a current era."

Sterling Anderson, deputy chief of Air Combat Command’s air superiority team, told National Defense that the Air Force is studying the viability of a “sixth-generation” fighter that would likely be needed by 2030. Anderson’s  team is researching much of the requirements for the  next fighter and will be reviewing the information beginning early next year.

“They’re taking a comprehensive look … at air, space and cyber and how we want to do air superiority out there in the far term in the 2030s,” Anderson told National Defense.  “How we do this sixth-gen thing, or if we do it, all depends on the outcome of that study and the chief’s direction.”

Drone warfare

Here are some facts on drone warfare around the world.

  • According to the New America Foundation,  seven countries have used armed drones in combat -- the US, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
  • 19 countries have armed drones or are acquiring armed drone technology
  • Eight-six other  states are known to have some sort of drone capability  
  • There were nearly 700 active drone development programs run by governments, companies and research institutes around the world. In 2010, there were 195.
  • In 2012, the Pentagon asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for new drone systems
  • The United States only exports armed drones to the United Kingdom 
  • Some drones are light enough to be launched by hand, some are the size of planes
  • They are known  as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems) to the military

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