This Is the One Fighter Jet the Navy Refused to Let Tom Cruise Fly in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Top Gun: Maverick / Paramount Pictures
Top Gun: Maverick / Paramount Pictures

Even though Tom Cruise flew real fighter jets and helicopters in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, there was one jet the superstar actor couldn’t pilot: Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell’s F-18. Cruise has done many of his own stunts over the years—including ones in the Mission: Impossible series that’ve become legendary, like  climbing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai—but getting in the cockpit of a real F-18 was too much.

Yes, “…he flies a P-51 in the movie and he flies helicopters. He can do just about anything in an airplane,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told USA Today. “[But] the Navy wouldn’t let him fly an F-18.”

The new Top Gun sequel picks up over 20 years after the original, following Cruise’s Maverick as he works as a test pilot for the Navy. He’s dodging a promotion that would take him out of the cockpit for good. When Maverick is tasked with training a new group of Top Gun pilots for a “specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen,” Maverick connects with Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his late former partner and best friend, Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw.

Even though Cruise couldn’t fly the F-18, the audience will still get to experience how it feels to be up in the air in one of the jets. Director Joseph Kosinski and the crew fitted high-powered IMAX cameras in the F-18 cockpits to bring as much realism as possible to the film.


Cruise and the cast, including Teller, Glen Powell, and Jay Ellis, went through an “aerial boot camp” to get prepared for scenes where the actors would be in the planes with real pilots flying.

“When you’re pulling heavy Gs, it compresses your spine, your skull. It makes some people delirious. Some people can’t handle it,” Cruise said. “So I had to get them up to be able to sustain high Gs. Because they have to act in the plane. I can’t have them sick the whole time.”

Despite the delays of other movies like No Time To Die, F9, and Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick is currently set to be released on June 24, 2020.

For more on Cruise and Top Gun: Maverick, follow along with Men’s Journal’s coverage here:

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!