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34 Years After Flying F-14 Fighter Jets, US Navy Awards Actor Tom Cruise With An Honorary Award

Thirty-four years after Tom Cruise flew the F-14 Tomcat in his blockbuster movie Top Gun, Cruise along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer were awarded US Navy’s 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators at a ceremony held at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

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It was awarded by the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III. The ceremony was held to screen the Top Gun: Maverick, the second movie in the franchise.

As honorary Naval Aviators, Bruckheimer and Cruise are authorized to wear the “wings of gold” of a U.S. naval aviator and are entitled to all honours, courtesies and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators, the release further said.

While Cruise wasn’t present at the ceremony and connected through video conferencing, Bruckheimer collected the award in person.

Top Gun was released in 1986 and became an instant hit that inspired a generation of naval officers. According to a 1986 report, Navy recruiters observed a boom in inquires related naval aviation officer candidate program after the release of the movie. The name of the movie is after the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School known as “TOPGUN” and based at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.

Several scenes were filmed at TOPGUN school as well.

“In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans,” stated the citation of the award.

“They couldn’t specifically say it was a direct result of ‘Top Gun,’ but they suspect it probably had a lot to do with it because when they would talk to applicants, about 90 percent said they had seen the movie,” Lt. Cmdr. Laura Marlowe, the officer in charge of recruiting for the naval officer program in Arizona and San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said in the report.

“The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation,” and “significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture,” it added.

The citation further emphasised that Cruise and Bruckheimer made great efforts to “ensure the Top Gun franchise is as authentic as possible, staying true to the unparalleled tactical excellence of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, the ethos of Naval Aviation, and the fighting spirit of the men and women of the world’s greatest Navy.”

The second movie in the Top Gun franchise was set to release this year but has been postponed until July 2, 2021, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. In Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise is playing the role of iconic Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Cruise has joined Bruckheimer as a producer in the sequel. 

The sequel features F/A-18F Super Hornets. Paramount Pictures released a behind the scenes video clip showing Cruise flying the Super Hornet with six IMAX cameras fitted in the cockpit of the fighter. 

“This is all real stuff. And it is insanely cool. You get a rough idea at what flying in a fast jet looks like or means for a body that is not used or trained to sustain g forces,” said David Cenciotti of The Aviationist.

He added that the clip featured scenes aboard an aircraft carrier as Super Hornets were prepared for catapult launch, inside the cockpit of Super Hornets, and into Tom Cruise’s P-51 Mustang.

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