‘Top Gun’ Memoir Warns American Military Air Superiority Is In Danger

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.”

Pedersen claims that the Navy lacks relatively cheap fighter jets for training such as the old F-14 Tomcats (the “Top Gun” jets in the movie) and others. 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.

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