Those F-18 flights cost a staggering price per hour

If you are planning to watch the latest Hollywood military flick, Top Gun: Maverick this weekend, here’s a little ‘did-you-know’ that you can use to chime into the conversation about the movie with your friends. Yes, we’re talking about the money Hollywood paid to film the F-18s. 

If you belong to the Gen Y and do not know what the whole hype about this Tom Cruise starter is, here’s a summary. The original 1986 movie Top Gun featured the supersonic F-14 fighter aircraft and Cruise in his indomitable spirit. Cruise attends a naval fighter weapons school attended by some of the best fighter pilots in the U.S. and has impressive flying skills which come to his rescue when he needs them the most. The resultant mix of all this is a high-octane movie with some high-speed flying maneuvers and some just-in-time adversarial kills. 

Top Gun: Maverick attempts to bring back the success formula once again to the big screen 36 years after the first movie, and with 59-year-old Cruise in the pilot’s seat. Not literally, though. 

Always in the co-pilot’s seat

While Cruise is known for performing his own stunts in his movies, Top Gun is very different. The movie plot may be fictional, but it thrives on being close to reality by featuring real aircraft and the aircraft carrier.

As much as Cruise would have loved to pilot the aircraft, the Department of Defense regulations bar any non-military person from controlling military assets. Therefore, Cruise and his team of actor fighter pilots were always in the co-pilot’s seats on these aircraft. 

This also explains why the movie showcases the two-seater F-18 Hornets and not the single-seater F-35C, which is a modern and much more advanced fighter aircraft used on US aircraft carriers.  

Cruise, who had flown shotgun in a fighter aircraft for the previous Top Gun iteration, wanted the cast of the movie to experience flight in these aircraft and the several G’s pilots are under. So, the movie producers did the next best thing that was possible, rent out these assets from the U.S. military. 

Bloomberg reports that Cruise flew more than a dozen sorties for the filming of the movie scenes. These were shot in 2018, and the going rate for the aircraft back then was $11,374. Actors were allowed onboard only after completing training on how to eject from these planes and survive at sea if it ever came to that. 

Wingman for the US military

If you are wondering if the U.S. military milks its top-end assets in commercial movies for a few hundred thousand dollars, then you are missing the forest for the woods.

The U.S. military works on as many as 130 commercial entertainment projects a year, The Guardian reported. The Pentagon even has an entertainment media office that coordinates with the biggest names in Hollywood and makes arrangements for their hiring requests, whether it be an aircraft carrier or a Globemaster C-17. 

This explains why certain production houses tap into military resources frequently for their movies, or even how directors manage to showcase some rare military assets in theirs. The Guardian reports that all movie scripts in these cases are approved by the Pentagon, which also makes “factual corrections” to the script, where needed. 

The communication between these two disparate areas runs so deep that the US military sets up recruitment campaigns outside screens when the production is out. It happened with the Captain Marvel movie recently and also with the Top Gun movie back in 1986, which saw recruitment jump by 500 percent across the U.S. military. 

In case you see flyers and U.S. military personnel when you walk out of the screen this time around, there will be some more ‘did-you-know’ that you contribute. 

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