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Top Gun III: The One Thing That Could Make It Happen

F-35 Engine
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Are you ready for a sequel to Top Gun: Maverick? You might have to wait. After all, it took 36 years to release the second Top Gun. Tom Cruise would have to be on board, and so would Miles Teller, who played Maverick’s son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. Teller is reportedly ready to reprise his role as Rooster.

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All Up to Tom Cruise pointed out that Cruise is the ultimate decider on whether a sequel will be made. “That would be great, but that’s all up to TC,” Teller told Entertainment Tonight. “It’s all up to Tom. I’ve been having some conversations with him about it. We’ll see.”

Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski is ready for more, but he has also concluded that Cruise needs to stand fully behind a sequel before it is made. There are also narrative considerations to work out. “If we can figure out a way, a journey for Maverick to go back and be with these young pilots and figure something out, maybe it could happen,” Kosinski said to IndieWire this summer.

There are difficult realities to write around when considering a sequel. It is not likely that the Maverick character could remain a Captain in the Navy. To maintain realism, captains are “up or out.” This means that Maverick would have to be promoted to Rear Admiral Lower Half to stay in the Navy. If Maverick is a Rear Admiral in a future script, he would have to find a way to keep flying to maintain that trademark excitement.

Also, what country would be the enemy? While no country was specifically portrayed as the enemy in the latest film, it seems that the main attack the aviators trained for was against Iran. A more realistic enemy would be China, especially if the plot included an American response to a Chinese attack against Taiwan.

The Chinese government would likely be apoplectic if it were portrayed as the enemy in a Hollywood blockbuster. The latest installation of the franchise already saw controversy regarding Maverick’s flight jacket, which had Japanese and Taiwanese flags removed and then reinstated.

Time to Fly the F-35

To portray a modern attack scenario, Maverick and his pilots would have to fly stealth fighters. The problem is that the Navy and Marine Corps do have the F-35 stealth fighters, but these are single-seaters. This makes a huge difference in filming. The movie used F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as the fighter of choice. Super Hornets have dual-seat variants, allowing the actors to ride in the back seat. Cameras captured the actors in the rear while the real pros flew in the front during the sequel. This resulted in unmatched realism during filming. Since the F-35 has only a single seat, actors would have to fly in a simulator, and this would not be as authentic.

The sequel could also showcase the new B-21 Raider bomber, but this is the property of the Air Force, not the Navy. Since these are naval aviators, they would not realistically pilot B-2 or B-21 stealth bombers.

Another plot consideration is Maverick’s love life. It would be interesting if Pete Mitchell had a son or daughter who flew fighters in the Navy in a future sequel. What if it turned out Maverick had had a child with his love interest in the first Top Gun? This would be a child of Charlie, portrayed by Kelly McGillis in the first Top Gun. That would be one entertaining plot twist: Maverick’s long-lost child who is now a naval aviator.

No Stunts Needed for Cruise

One good thing about the Top Gun franchise for Tom Cruise is that extensive stunts are not needed. Cruise is 60, and he is getting past the age where he can safely enact the fights and falls that punctuate his action and adventure films. A Top Gun sequel would not endanger his health if he only flew from a simulator.

The onus is on Tom Cruise. He would have to approve the script, and maybe his character would need to be a Rear Admiral who could somehow fly again. The screenplay would need a new enemy, and it is not clear if the next movie would make China out to be the bad guy. Flying F-35s is more authentic, but the Hollywood pilots would be forced to resort to flying a simulator. A wrinkle in the story would be Maverick with a secret child who is now a naval aviator. One thing is certain: Any sequel, despite the challenges of plot development, would be another mega-hit.

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Expert Biography: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.