Air Force Hijacks ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ To Recruit Future Fighter Pilots

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We’re just weeks away from the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick, and the Air Force is hoping to cash in on the buzz. US Air Force image by Airman 1st Class Hayden Legg. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Fans are screaming for Top Gun: Maverick to hit theaters in a couple of weeks after years of delays. The long-awaited sequel stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, and Jennifer Connelly, and will also see Val Kilmer return as Iceman, although it’s unclear how large a role his character will play. The upcoming action movie promises to be chock-full of breathtaking aerial combat sequences and will likely boast the most screen time modern aircraft have ever had. The movie centers around naval aviators, but the Air Force plans to cash in on the movie’s buzz.

The Air Force released a new recruiting commercial titled “Own the Sky” that will air in theaters before the start of Top Gun: Maverick. The epic recruiting effort features a fleet of aircraft, including F-35s — most likely from Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base — practicing dogfights, the infantry’s beloved A-10, and America’s fifth-generation F-22s. The secretive B-2 stealth bomber also gets a rare moment in the spotlight, before the dreaded AC-130J gunship — dubbed “Ghostrider” — soars into view.

The one-minute montage also features single-tail, single-engine F-16s, known among pilots as Vipers, flaunting their afterburners. The V-22 Osprey, flown exclusively by the branch’s Special Operations Command, also makes a cameo. Some of the pilots can be seen sporting patches for Air Combat Command, which controls all of the Air Force’s fighter aircraft.

“When you look up, what you see is our domain. From fifth-generation fighters and attack aircraft to long-range stealth bombers, the U.S. Air Force is the most advanced, most powerful air force in the world,” the Air Force writes in the YouTube description of the commercial. “But air superiority wouldn’t be possible without the highly trained pilots and aircrews responsible for flying them. When it comes to the sky, we don’t just dominate, we own it.”

With the help of a specially equipped aircraft from Hollywood, the visually stunning commercial was shot primarily at Edwards Air Force Base, where the Air Force’s own legendary flying movie, The Right Stuff, was originally set.

“The Navy, the Air Force and the other services benefit when America gets to see such positive and realistic depictions of what we do and what our lives are like serving the country,” Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, the Air Force recruiting commander, said in a press release. “Whether viewers want to ‘Fly Navy’ or ‘Aim High’ we just want them to think about serving and the exciting life and tremendous opportunities we can offer.”

Of the aircraft seen owning the skies throughout the commercial, the F-35 takes center stage. The modern fighter jet is used by both the Navy and the Air Force, likely aiding the Air Force’s recruiting effort before a film that exclusively features Navy pilots and aircraft. Just as the 1990s action flick Navy SEALs helped bring in a new generation of Navy frogmen, the Air Force aims to rise above what Thomas called “the toughest recruiting market in well more than two decades” with the well-placed commercial and welcome the next generation of pilots willing to suit up, according to the press release.

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Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a US Marine Corps veteran and a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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