Thirty years ago, Maverick, Goose, Iceman, and the rest of the Top Gun crew hit theaters around the world, thrilling audiences with high-speed fighter-jet sequences, shirtless-denim combo volleyball competitions, and an unforgettable soundtrack with contributions from the likes of Kenny Loggins and Berlin. Just about everything in Top Gun seems unbelievable, but, as TIME reports, there is some real military history behind the film.
First and foremost, the movie raised the profile of “TOPGUN” the real nickname of the Navy Fighter Weapons School that admitted its first class in1969 — at the height of the Vietnam War — after a 1968 study found that U.S. pilots lacked sufficient aerial-combat training. The story, named the “Ault Report” after author Capt. Frank “Whip” Ault, it was “a sweeping review of fighter system performance covering logistics, training and operations and is credited with raising the air combat kill ratio” from two Vietnamese planes downed for every American plane lost “to more than 12.1,” according to the Navy.
In preparing for his role, Tom Cruise shadowed these elite pilots at the school’s headquarters, which were in Miramar in San Diego at the time, and told TIME that an instructor told him that there were “only four jobs in the world worth having: an actor, a rock star, a jet fighter pilot and President.'” Kelly McGillis shadowed the woman who inspired the role, Christine Fox, a 30-year-old civilian employee of the Center for Naval Analyses, who, in 2013, went on to become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the Department of Defense when President Barack Obama appointed her to replace current DoD Secretary Ash Carter as acting deputy defense secretary.
Head over to TIME to read about the impact Top Gun had on the public's opinion of the military.
Feature image via Paramount Pictures