Here Are All the Screw Ups in the Top Gun: Maverick Trailer Already

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The Top Gun: Maverick trailer is here, and while there is such a thing as “suspension of disbelief” and “it’s just a movie” and “you guys are a bunch of jerks ruining nice things that people enjoy,” there are things in it that are WRONG. Not from a “why is Ed Harris so old” perspective, but something far worse. From a pedant’s perspective. This is everything that looks inaccurate to us, just from the trailer alone.

Okay, Why is Maverick Still in the Navy?

What is Pete “Maverick” Mitchell still flying for the U.S. Navy? Why is he only a captain?

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“It’s one of life’s mysteries, sir.” Mitchell replies.

Yeah, no kidding. He shouldn’t even be there by law. No, really, by law. Here’s the relevant law from the Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 634, Paragraph (a), entitled “Retirement for years of service: regular colonels and Navy captains,” which governs the piña colada Maverick should be drinking at the moment:

(a)30 Years of Active Commissioned Service.—

Except as provided in subsection (b) and as provided under section 637(b) or 637a of this title, each officer of the Regular Army, Regular Air Force, or Regular Marine Corps who holds the regular grade of colonel, and each officer of the Regular Navy who holds the regular grade of captain, who is not on a list of officers recommended for promotion to the regular grade of brigadier general or rear admiral (lower half), respectively, shall, if not earlier retired, be retired on the first day of the month after the month in which he completes 30 years of active commissioned service.


(b)Exceptions.—Subsection (a) does not apply to the following:

(1)An officer of the Navy who is designated for limited duty to whom section 8372(a)(4) of this title applies.

(2)

An officer of the Navy or Marine Corps who is a permanent professor at the United States Naval Academy.

As a career fighter pilot, it’s highly unlikely that Maverick is a Limited Duty Officer, also known as a “Mustang.” Seeing as how the original Top Gun came out 33 years ago, and Maverick was already a Navy fighter pilot (let’s assume, for argument’s sake, about two years of training before you qualify as one of those), and Maverick is in the Navy for a total of 35 years. Which is definitely over the 30-year time limit for captains in the service.

What we’re saying is, he should’ve been forced into retirement years ago. Either that, or he works at the Naval Academy, but he doesn’t seem like the professorial type.

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The most plausible explanation is that Capt. Mitchell was caught in the wash of the “Fat Leonard” scandal, a corruption scandal involving U.S. Navy officers taking bribes from defense contractor Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis. That would (partially) explain his stalled career. Will the scandal make the movie? Will Norm MacDonald play Fat Leonard?

What’s Up With The Helmet?

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The next goof comes as Maverick giving the takeoff salute from the aircraft carrier. Maverick is not wearing a standard issue Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), a modular helmet display that attaches to a HGU-55P flight helmet. JHMCS allows the pilot to aim sensors and weapons at a target in his field of view while placing an information display monocle, night vision, and a camera directly in his field of vision.

It also makes the fighter pilot look like they have a giant mutant head.

A real Navy pilot with a real Navy helmet. Not Tom Cruise.
Screenshot: JHMCSII on Youtube
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We can write the lack of JHMCS off as a bit of artistic license, because JHMCS makes the wearer look like an enormous, faceless insect. The shaded helmet visor would obscure Tom Cruise’s middle-aged good looks, and that is WHAT THE PEOPLE CAME TO SEE.

The next goof takes place toward the end of the trailer. Maverick is leading a four-ship formation of Super Hornets, presumably into combat. Each Super Hornet is carrying two AIM-9X Sidewinders and two GBU-24 2,000 pound laser-guided bunker buster bombs. The pod on the left side of the fuselage is the AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared pod (ATFLIR)—good for seein’ aliens.

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The problem? The fighter jets are way too bunched up. That could be to merge their radar signature to a single target on older radars, but more likely it’s to look good on the big screen. Which, in all fairness, it does.

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Mysteries

Where are you, Maverick?
Screenshot: YouTube
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There’s a funeral. Someone dies. Who? Is it Goose’s kid? That family is so unlucky!

There is an extremely brief scene of a World War II-era P-51D Mustang fighter taking off. Why is it in the movie?

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There’s another pilot, call sign “Phoenix.” Does this allude to the pilot being Goose and Meg Ryan’s kid? “Phoenix” sort of works, because Goose died, plus it’s another bird. Fighter pilots don’t, as general rule, solely get their callsigns from birds. Mostly it’s embarrassing incidents.

But there is one scene that’s a real mystery: Maverick is sitting in a weird, dimmed cockpit, wearing some kind of space helmet similar to that worn by U-2 pilots. Cockpit displays reflect off his helmet glass.

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Later in the trailer we see Maverick again, a helmet ring around his neck, indicating he’s wearing a fully pressurized suit. What is Maverick flying? There isn’t an airplane in the U.S. Navy that uses a space helmet like that. He also has this “holy crap am I really doing this,” look. So what is he doing?

No hull number on the flight deck, which every aircraft carrier should have.
Screenshot: YouTube
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This leads us to the final question: who is the enemy? The Soviet Union, with its “MiG-28s” from the first film, is long gone. We can count China out—Paramount Pictures will want permission from the Chinese government to screen it in China.

Update: Speaking of China, this Globe and Mail journalist pointed out changes to Maverick’s famous jacket, ostensibly to get past censors in the ultra-important Chinese film market:

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The aircraft are flying over snowy mountains with bunker buster munitions—are they going after some mad Russian general, holed up in a command bunker with his finger on the nuclear trigger? North Korea?

Perhaps the pressurized space suit is a clue. Is Maverick going after those UFOs the U.S. Navy sighted in 2004 and 2015?

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And What’s That Tomcat Doing There?

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Yes, that’s an F-14 Tomcat, the star of the first film. The F-14 was retired from Navy service in 2006—right about the time Maverick’s career should have plausibly ended. Why is it in the movie? The only flying F-14s belong to the Iranian Air Force. Did Maverick pull a Monica Witt and defect to Iran to continue flying his beloved plane? Or is Maverick just trying to shoot it down?

We’ll just have to wait to find out.

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About the author

Kyle Mizokami

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and security writer based in San Francisco, California.