This Is Why The F-35 Lightning Didnt Star In The Top Gun Movie

F-35 Lightning Didnt Star In The Top Gun Movie
F-35 Lightning Didnt Star In The Top Gun Movie

The F-35 is a highly capable fighter of the fifth generation, but it only appears in Top Gun: Maverick for a few seconds total. In the year 2022, it is probably accurate to say that Top Gun: Maverick has been a roaring success. The sequel to the film Top Gun, which was released in 1986, has been a huge success with moviegoers all over the world. As of the time this article was written, it is the highest-grossing film of 2022 to this point, as well as the highest-grossing film in Tom Cruise's career. It is an absolute pleasure to watch, and it very much gives the impression that it has given movies and theaters in general a new lease on life.

This Is The Reason Why The F-35 Lightning Was Not Featured In Top Gun: Maverick

It should come as no surprise that one of the other major stars of this movie is the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, an airplane that, in a sense, replaces the F-14 Tomcat in the role that it played in the original film. It is also very exciting to see the Hornet play the lead role in this story. On the other hand, it's possible that the lead role was played by a different type of military aircraft. There are speculations and rumors that the producers of the movie originally intended for the F-35 Lightning to play the lead role in the film, but for a variety of reasons, the plane was not selected for the role. These are some of the explanations that we have heard for why the F-35 did not take the lead role in Top Gun: Maverick.

The F-35 Lightning Itself in its Own Right

The F-35 in itself is a bit of a star machine. It is a fifth-generation fighter with vertical take-off and landing capabilities, and it first flew in December 2006. It was a long time ago now, but it has had a few issues in development tanks due to its size and complexity. It effectively took over from the British and American versions of the Harrier, which equally drew criticism, as the British had just upgraded their versions of the Harrier. But the F-35 is now gradually entering service, and with a weapon load of up to 2,500 lb, it can pack a punch.

The primary source of power for the F-35 is a Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 afterburning turbofan. This afterburning turbofan is capable of propelling the jet to a top speed of approximately Mach 1.6, and it has a range of 1,500 nautical miles. Stealth is a significant component of the design of the F-35 as well, with the aircraft having a low radar-cross section that is accomplished through the use of radar-absorbent materials within the jet's construction as well as some meticulous shaping of the airframe itself. Although the stealth aspect of the jet may not have received as much attention in the movie as it deserved, it is undeniably an interesting facet of the aircraft.

Why the F-35 Was Not Included in the Maverick Game

There are a few different hypotheses floating around as to the reasons why the jet did not make an appearance in the movie.

To begin with, there is the fact that the jet only has a single passenger seat. Because there is both a two-seater and a single-seater variant of the Hornet, it is possible for Maverick and Rooster to pilot the later versions, while characters like Phoenix and Bob could ride in the two-seater variant.

In addition to this, the lack of a two-seat version would have presented difficulties for the cinematographers working on the production. Two-seater Hornets would have enabled a real US Navy pilot to fly the actors around, making it appear as though they were piloting the jets in the shots.

The F-35 would never be used in a low-level mission that was so dangerous that it was almost suicidal, as depicted in the movie. This is another issue. The jet serves a purpose at a greater altitude, and it also contributes to the operation of unmanned systems in some capacity.

The F-35 would eliminate air defenses at the range, so the SAM sites that we see in the film would most likely get obliterated first by the F-35 before the Hornets came in to attack the primary target after the F-35 had finished with them. However, now that the air defenses have been eliminated, they won't have to fly at such low altitudes.

Due to the absence of high-octane dogfighting

There wouldn't be any wild dogfighting sequences like the ones we saw during the pilot's Top Gun training with Maverick if the F-35 didn't take part in the competition, which is another valid reason why it shouldn't. According to information published on the website 19FortyFive, F-35s participated in the 2019 Red Flag exercises and achieved a kill ratio of 20 to 1 against hostile actors. It would simply engage with enemy aircraft such as the Su-57 from a long distance rather than in the close-quarters fight that we saw the F-14 engage in during the movie.

Does It Really Make a Difference That the F-35 Was Not There?

The F-35 was never shown on screen for more than a few seconds at the beginning of the movie, and the only time it was mentioned was when Maverick was being briefed on the new mission for the first time. 

The truth of the matter is, however, that the fact that the jet was not given a leading role is irrelevant. Primarily for the reasons that were discussed above, with the cinematography aspect possibly being the single most important reason in the end.

However, the F/A-18 proved to be a fantastic star aircraft, and the film may have served as a reminder that the Super Hornet is still a very capable and effective combat aircraft, despite the fact that it first took to the skies in the 1990s.

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