Top Gun memoir warns air superiority in danger: inadequate pilot training for dogfighting in jet fighters

Navy lacks affordable jet fighters for training. Much of fighter pilot training is done on simulators, which are an inadequate substitute for flight time.

Jet Fighter Formation 22 July 2019

WASHINGTON – In his engaging and succinct memoir Top Gun: An American Story, Topgun’s original commanding officer Dan Pedersen argues that “what matters is the man, not the machine,” and because of this truism, pilot training will always be far more important than the technology of jet fighters for winning battles in the sky. At present, says Pedersen, “Something is rotten in Washington, and one day, sadly, we will lose a war because of it.” The Federalist reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

22 July 2019 -- Pedersen says the Navy lacks relatively cheap jet fighters for training. He cites a price tag for the new F-35 as $330 million per plane. The service can’t buy and maintain a large number of trainers at those prices, he says. As a consequence, much of fighter pilot training must be done on simulators, which, in Pedersen’s view, are an inadequate substitute for real flight time.

More ominously, Pedersen says the Navy has once again been beguiled by the siren song of technological triumphalism and has lost the will to properly instruct pilots in dogfighting techniques. This was precisely the situation during the early years of Vietnam, and it led to devastating American losses, and ultimately to the creation of Topgun, the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School.

Unfortunately, claims Pedersen, bureaucratic rot and self-destructive rivalry and jealousy have set in the years since the 1969 founding of that “graduate school for fighter pilots.” Pedersen suggests this is partly due to blowback from the 1986 movie Top Gun, and the lasting cultural cache it bestowed on the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School as a result.

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John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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