“Top Gun” became a household name with the worldwide success of the film of the same title. The 1986 blockbuster starring Tom Cruise as a hotshot U.S. Navy fighter pilot was so popular (drawing $356 million worldwide) that recruiters set up desks in theaters that were showing it, looking to attract the next generation of combat aviators. The movie did for Navy pilots what The Right Stuff did for astronauts.
With the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the real TOPGUN-as the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons program was known-approaching in 2019, and with Jerry Bruckheimer’s sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, set to shoot next year, this is the time to publish the real story of the actual risk takers, disruptors, and innovators who revolutionized the art of aerial combat and created the center for excellence and incubator of leadership that thrives to this day.
Here is the inside story of TOPGUN, told by the man who was picked to lead it at the start, from war to peace and back to war again, on and off the flight line, and through all six of our decades. Though Pedersen was a part of it at the beginning, some other great pilots carried on our work and he is eager to pay them tribute and make the book a celebration of our whole community. It’s a great story, full of interesting characters and exciting history that American should know.