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Watch: This Top Gun Took Place Long Before Viper and Iceman

Not the Same Top Gun as the One You’re Probably Thinking Of, But a Serious Weapons Competition Nonetheless

MCAS Yuma in 1959.

The film “Operation Top Gun” is not about the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, or at least not the version of it that the big screen film dramatized during the 1980s. This film details the 4th Annual United States Navy Aerial Weapons Meet. Produced by Ryan Aeronautical Company (makers of the Firebee series of drones), the film is a look at the naval fighters and attack aircraft of the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) back in 1959. The Fleet Air Gunnery Unit Pacific (FAGUPAC) hosted the competition at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma in Arizona. Other competition was centered on the Pacific Missile Test Range (PMTC) at NAS Point Mugu in California. Audio quality is lacking so turn it way up or off. Uploaded by San Diego Air and Space Museum. A link to a different version with better audio but blurry visuals is below.

The film stars the Douglas F4D / F-6A Skyrays (all weather fighters), McDonnell F3H / F-3 Demons (all weather fighters), Douglas A4D / A-4B Skyhawks (light attack jets), Douglas A3D / A-3B Skywarriors (heavy attack), Vought F8U / F-8 Crusaders (day fighters) and Douglas AD-7 / A-1J Skyraiders (light attack props). Also appearing in the film are North American FJ-4 Fury target tugs, Ryan KDA-1 / BQM-34 Firebee drones, Lockheed DP-2H Neptune drone controllers, and Douglas DB-26B Invader drone controllers.

Official US Navy Photograph

The A-4s appearing in the film are from VMA-224 Fighting Bengals, VA-46 Clansmen, VA-12 Flying Ubangis, and VA-56 Champions. The A-1s in the film are from VA-115 Arabs. A-3s appearing are from VAH-11 Checkertails, VAH-7 Peacemakers, and VAH-8 Fireballers. The F3Hs are from VF-121 Pacemakers. Skyrays in the film are from VFAW-3 Blue Nemesis, FAGU, and VMF(AW)-513 Flying Nightmares. The F-8 Crusaders are from FAGU, VF-84 Jolly Rogers, VF-121 Pacemakers, VMF(AW)-235 Death Angels, and VMFA-232 Red Devils. The FJ Furies are from VC-7 Tallyhoers and VA-126 Bandits. The DP-2H Neptune and DB-26B Invader drone controllers are from VC-3. And last but not least, Sikorsky SH-34 Sea Bat drone recovery helos make an appearance in the film.

Official US Navy Photograph

Bonus video:  This is the same film with better audio quality but lower quality visuals. Unfortunately there isn’t a version that has both decent audio and visuals. Uploaded by Periscope Films.

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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