Top Gun 2: Did Tom Cruise really pilot US Navy fighters jets in Maverick?

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick
Did Tom Cruise fly Navy fighter jets in Top Gun: Maverick? Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise reprises his role as flight instructor Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the original Top Gun (1986) movie.

The first trailer  Top Gun 2 released on July 18 shows Cruise apparently flying US Navy fighter jets and pulling off fantastic aerial stunts in them. When Cruise staged a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday to introduce the trailer, he described it as a “love letter to aviation” and confirmed that all the flying in the trailer is real.

“Everything you see in this film is for real. We’re working with the Navy. All of the flying in this picture is real,” Cruise told his audience (see video below). “I really wanted to give you an experience of being inside that aircraft.”

Tom Cruise’s comments left some fans wondering whether he actually piloted U.S. Navy fighter jets in Top Gun: Maverick. If you’ve also been wondering, here is what you need to know.

Did Tom Cruise learn to fly fighter jets for Top Gun 2?

Tom Cruise is a licensed pilot and it is known that he is able to fly certain categories of aircraft, but he wasn’t known to have learned to fly military-type jets.

After it was first announced that a sequel to the original 1986 movie was in the works, Cruise was reported to have said that he would reprise his role in the sequel if only he gets to actually fly a jet and not pretend to do it through CGI.

“We got to do all the jets practical, no CGI on the jets,” Cruise said. “I’m saying right now no CGI on the jets. If we can figure all that out, and the Department of Defense will allow us to do it, that would be fun.”

Following Cruise’s statement that he would like to fly fighter jets, fans have been speculating that he would learn to fly actual fighter jets as part of the preparation for his role in the movie.

There were reports in November 2018 that production of the movie was put on hold to allow Tom Cruise to learn how to fly fighter jets.

Entertainment Weekly confirmed that he went through extensive training for the film, but it wasn’t clear that the training involved learning how to fly Navy fighter jets. And even if he did learn how to fly fighter jets, he really wouldn’t need to actually get into a U.S. Navy fighter jet to learn how to fly them. This is because much of the basic training that even professional military fighter pilots receive is done through A.I.-powered flight simulators.

Did he actually fly military jets in Top Gun: Maverick?

In the original 1986 Top Gun movie, actual fighter planes were used to shoot the flight sequences. The actors flew in the jets to film some of the flight sequences. However, the actors did not actually fly the jets themselves. A fighter jet pilot flew them but the film was shot to make it look like the actors were actually flying the planes.

But after Cruise confirmed that the flight sequences in the movie were real and fans saw him in the trailer released yesterday apparently flying Navy fighter jets and performing stunts in them, many have been asking whether the Navy actually allowed him to fly their jets.

But as Entertainment Weekly pointed out, U.S. military law does not allow civilians to use military equipment, including military jets. So the scenes which involve actual flights and stunts in U.S. Navy fighter jets would have to be performed by authorized personnel.

But Cruise actually flew aircraft in the movie. Some of the scenes showing him in the cockpit were real as he said at Comic-Con. But he was not flying Navy fighter jets, he was flying other types of aircraft that were provided for the shooting.

But even if Tom Cruise — who is known to favor performing his own stunts in his movies — learned to fly real fighter jets to play his role as flight instructor Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, it would be unrealistic to expect that he would be able to perform all the aerial stunts in the movie. It is unlikely that he would be able to acquire the level of professional expertise required to safely perform dangerous and complex stunts.

The movie creators will still need to rely on highly skilled professionals to perform the stunts.

Top Gun: Maverick will be released in theaters on June 26, 2020. 

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