6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Today, with its prevalence in pop culture and its sequel waiting in the wings, it’s difficult to imagine that Top Gun was anything but a surefire hit. But, in the time leading up its 1986 release, Top Gun‘s production had its share of problems and setbacks. In fact, plenty of people doubted that the idea of fighter jets would even work as a movie.


1. People didn’t want to be part of Top Gun

After producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw a picture of an F-14 in a magazine, he came up with the idea of a fighter jet movie that would be like “Star Wars on earth.” After their successes with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, Bruckheimer and his production partner, Don Simpson, went around pitching the idea to Hollywood studios. Though they were rejected by studio after studio, Paramount Pictures eventually picked up the movie and cautiously agreed to fund it.

The next challenge was getting actors onboard. At that time, a young Tom Cruise was known only for his role in Risky Business. Bruckheimer and Simpson were adamant that he be cast as their lead actor and sent him script after script to get him to sign on.

Cruise rejected every offer made to him, so Bruckheimer pulled out all the stops.

He called up Navy Admiral Peter Garrow and asked him to send Cruise up in a fighter jet to convince him to join the film. The Admiral arranged for Cruise to ride along in a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk and be put through his paces. After a wild ride (during which he reportedly threw up on everything), Cruise stumbled from the jet to the nearest payphone and called Bruckheimer to take the part. The only non-negotiable part in his contract was that he had to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Pete and Charlotte sing with the Bradshaws, Nick, Carole, and their son. Weird hearing their real names, isn’t it? (Credit Paramount Pictures)

With no real script and unable to send every potential actor up in a fighter jet, it was difficult for the producers to cast the rest of the movie. The part of Charlie was originally pitched to Ally Sheedy of Brat Pack fame, but she turned it down reportedly saying, “No one would want to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane.” Fresh off of filming Witness, Kelly McGillis only signed on because she didn’t expect the film to be the blockbuster hit that it would become. Val Kilmer was actually forced into the role of Iceman due to a contractual obligation with the studio. The rest of the cast like Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards were still years away from becoming household names for their roles in The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally and ER, respectively.

2. Danger Zone was attempted by Toto and REO Speedwagon

Bruckheimer and Simpson implemented the same formula that worked for them with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop and put together a top-notch soundtrack for Top Gun. Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally had Toto record the song, “Danger Zone,” but Bruckheimer disliked it and the recording was scrapped. The song was then offered to REO Speedwagon who wanted to be part of the film, but insisted that the song be their own. They recorded an original song and submitted it to the producers, but it was never used.

Kenny Loggins and his collaborators were hot off of their successes with Caddyshack and Footloose and decided to write the song “Playing with the Boys” for the volleyball scene. Assuming that other bands would be vying for the opening song, they figured that this scene would have less competition. While recording “Playing with the Boys,” Loggins was asked by Moroder to give “Danger Zone” a shot. “I walked in and I sang ‘Danger Zone’ and messed with it a little bit, you know, and had a good time with it,” Loggins recalled. The rest is history. “I wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it. I just lucked into it.”

Moroder had more luck pitching “Take My Breath Away” to Berlin lead-singer Terry Nunn. After hearing the song and watching the love-making scene that it would be set to, Nunn was on board. Less enthused was her bandmate, John Crawford, who didn’t want to perform a song written by someone else. Their band manager, Perry Watts-Russell, also had his doubts and said that he would shave his head if the song became a number one hit. Of course, Berlin recorded the song and it did reach number one. While Watts-Russell kept his word and shaved his head, Crawford was less pleased with the song’s performance as it meant that Berlin had to play it at every live performance following Top Gun‘s release.

3. There was a constant struggle between the producers, the director, Paramount and the Navy

Director Tony Scott was unpopular in Hollywood after his box office flop The Hunger, and clashed constantly with Paramount Pictures over the creative direction of the film. In fact, Scott was fired and rehired by studio execs three times over the course of Top Gun.

While filming aboard the USS Enterprise on a foggy Sunday morning, Scott lost the ideal lighting for his shot when the carrier altered its course. He implored that the captain return to his previous course so that they could film the scene. When the captain refused, Scott asked, “What does it cost for this aircraft carrier to run per minute?” The captain gave him a figure and Scott retrieved his checkbook from his bunk and wrote the captain a check for ,000. The captain returned the ship to its previous course and Scott was able to get his shot. He later bounced the check.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The opening scene gives me goosebumps every time (Credit Paramount Pictures)

Rear Admiral (ret.) Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, whose callsign was loaned to Tom Skerrit’s character, was hired as the film’s technical advisor for a sum of ,000 and served as a liaison with the Navy. Per his contract, he had a brief cameo in the film as Charlie’s boss, the “older guy” in the bar that she sits down with after Maverick’s rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Pettigrew’s job was to keep the film grounded in reality, though his protests to the film’s eccentricities were always overridden by Bruckheimer and Simpson.

He argued against the locker room argument between Maverick and Iceman and the shower scene, saying that pilots just get changed after a hop and go to the bar. However, paying id=”listicle-2646420686″ million to have Cruise in the film, the producers insisted that Cruise show as much skin as possible to appeal to a female audience. As the script took shape, the Navy raised concerns regarding the increased focus on the relationships between the characters over the fighter jets and aerial combat. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep it from turning into a musical,” Pettigrew responded.

Though it played a major role in production, the Navy authorized only two missile shots to be filmed for the movie due to the cost of the weapon system. The shots were filmed from several angles to make the most of them. Additional missile shots were filmed using models of the planes and missiles. However, the company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Navy launched an investigation to determine if additional missiles were fired beyond the two that were previously authorized.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

One of the two authorized missile shots (Credit Paramount Pictures)

4. More trouble off-screen

Bruckheimer and Simpson worked well together because they complemented each other. While Simpson was bold and brash, Bruckheimer was calm and collected. However, Simpson’s alleged love of fast cars, women, hookers and drugs were reportedly negatively impacting his job as a producer. Having already been to rehab at least twice before, he checked himself in again midway through production. Little had changed by the time he checked out though. After renting a car, he sped down to the production office, crashed the car in the parking lot, barged into a meeting and declared, “We’re not shooting that f***ing scene!” He then proceeded to fire people and start rewrites to the script. Simpson’s self-destructive lifestyle came to a head when he overdosed in 1996.

Though Cruise and McGillis had to maintain a sexual tension and chemistry on set, McGillis had fallen for another actor during the filming of Top Gun. “We were walking across the street and she actually fell down, and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” Barry Tubb remembered of McGillis. “She fell down on her face in the middle of the street and she had my heart.” Tubb played a supporting role in the film as Wolfman.

Tubb and McGillis’ relationship off-screen threatened to weaken Charlie and Maverick’s relationship on-screen. To create more tension and add more lead-up to their eventual chase and kiss on W. Laurel Street, McGillis and Cruise were brought back to film one more scene months after production had wrapped.

In the elevator scene that follows the dinner at Charlie’s Oceanside house, Maverick’s hair is wet and slicked back while Charlie’s is hidden under a hat. Both actors had different hairstyles by that time which needed to be masked in order to preserve the continuity of the film. The scene succeeded though in adding more tension and lead-up to the relationship.

5. A tragedy occurred

Top Gun‘s production also saw a real-life death. While capturing footage for Maverick and Goose’s flat spin, stunt actor Art Scholl lost control of his Pitts S-2 camera plane. Filming about five miles off the coast of Carlsbad, California, Scholl radioed to his ground spotter, “I have a problem – I have a serious problem.” He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed into the ocean. The aircraft and his body were never recovered. As a tribute, Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Scholl and his dog, Aileron (Credit Smithsonian Institution)

6. Bruckheimer and Scott thought the movie was a flop

Having wrapped production, an advance screening of Top Gun was scheduled for January 29, 1986, in Houston, Texas. With the rather lukewarm release of Iron Eagle two weeks before, receiving mixed reviews and grossing just million more at the box office than its budget, Top Gun‘s future as the second fighter jet movie of the year seemed unsure.

The advance screening was also clouded by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just the day before. “We’re in that theater, and I tell you, it was like a funeral,” Bruckheimer recalled. “I watched the movie with this audience and nobody reacted. I mean, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t applaud, it was nothing.” As a result of this screening, Bruckheimer thought that the movie would be a disaster upon its full release.

Director Tony Scott felt similarly following the Houston screening. “It was the worst experience of my life,” Scott said. “I can’t remember even hearing the audience.” Thinking he had failed directing another movie, Scott left the screening and went to a bar to get drunk.

However, contradicting the lack-luster advance screening, Top Gun was well-received by the rest of the cast and crew when it was screened for them. During that screening, Kenny Loggins was thoroughly impressed with what they had created. “I just held my wife’s hand and went ‘Holy s**t’,” he recalled.

Of course, Bruckheimer and Scott’s fears were misplaced and the film’s release in the summer of 1986 was perfect; Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the military was cool again and the country was going through a patriotic renaissance. Since its blockbuster release, Top Gun has gone on to become one of the most successful and iconic films of all time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.

“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.


He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.

The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.

Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.

Moscow and Minsk said the joint maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials have said the true number may have been around 100,000.

Featured image: Marshalls Nikolay Ogarkov, Dmitry Ustinov, and Alexey Yepishev pose with airborne troopers during exercise ZAPAD-81.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pilots’ close calls with Russian aircraft are likely to continue, experts say

The U.S. Navy last week watched a single-seat Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E come within 25 feet of a P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft while at high speed and inverted, causing wake turbulence and putting the U.S. “pilots and crew at risk” over the Mediterranean Sea.

Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.


Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.

The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.

“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.

In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.

“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Opportunity to Go Viral

Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.

“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”

Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.

“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.

“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”

Predictable Response

Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.

The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.

Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.

More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.

For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”

“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”

Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.

“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.

“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.

Not Backing Down

Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.

“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.

“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”

Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

Why Fortnite is basically a combat engineer simulator

Military simulators are always a huge hit within the gaming community. Flight simulators give gamers the opportunity to sit in a (simulated) cockpit. First-person shooters imitate the life of an infantryman. World of Warships and World of Tanks give the gearheads out there a chance to pilot their favorite vessels.

And then there’s the game that’s taken gaming world by storm lately: Fortnite. It features a 100-player, battle-royale mode that has players duke it out until only the best (or luckiest) player survives. At first glance, it seems like a standard PUBG clone — until you realize that a huge part of the game is about, as its name implies, building forts.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
Some players get a little carried away with honing their base-building skills…
(u/RuffAsToast)

Underneath its goofy graphics and RNG-laden (random number generator) loot system is actually a fairly intricate game. The overall premise is simple: Land somewhere, scavenge materials to build, find loot, build stuff, fight the enemy, move toward the objective, and build more stuff.

Then, it suddenly hits you.


What separates the skilled players from the 10-year-old kiddies screaming memes into their headsets is the ability to construct a dependable, defensible position. In order to be successful in Fortnite, you have to quickly build and rebuild secure bases that can’t easily be destroyed while giving you the ability to get up high and view the battlefield.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley J. Hayes)

This is not unlike the essence of what a real combat engineer does in real life: Deploy somewhere, get hand-me-down materials from the last unit who was in Afghanistan, build stuff, fight the enemy, continue the mission, and then build more stuff.

Granted, you’re distilling an entire career into a 20-minute long video-game match, but the parallels are there — but real engineers have more fun. Building stuff is only half of the job description; using explosives to take out enemy positions is when the real fun begins.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Soviets ripped off this strange Boeing transport plane

The Soviet Union has had a history of ripping off American designs. The Tu-4 “Bull” was pretty much an unlicensed bolt-for-bolt copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The Su-25 “Frogfoot” was a knockoff of the Northrop A-9. Russia’s AA-2 “Atoll” air-to-air missile was pretty much a reverse-engineered Sidewinder.


But the Soviets haven’t just kept to swiping combat designs. They’ve also stolen civilian aircraft data (albeit, one report claims theft of Concorde data used for the Tu-144 “Concordeski” went very wrong). They also apparently knocked off an American transport design.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
Boeing YC-14 in flight. This transport was able to haul a main battle tank. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the early 1970s, the United States considered replacing the C-130 Hercules transport plane. Two contenders engaged in a flyoff. Boeing sent in the YC-14, and McDonnell-Douglas went for the YC-15. Boeing’s plane was unusual in that its engines were placed above the wings. This creates what’s known as the Coanda effect, and as a result, the plane has great short-takeoff and landing (STOL) performance. TheAviationZone.com notes that the YC-14 had a top speed of 504 miles per hour, and a range of 3,190 miles.

Both the YC-14 and YC-15 did well in the flyoff, greatly exceeding the specs. The YC-14 even proved it could haul a main battle tank! But the need for more strategic airlift meant that neither plane would enter service. The Air Force instead bought what became the C-130H Hercules. Later, a modified version of the YC-15 became the C-17 Globemaster.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
A Russian Navy An-72 Coaler. (Wikimedia Commons)

But the Soviet Union also needed a new tactical transport. The Antonov design bureau used the same method that Boeing used to get good STOL performance from the An-72 “Coaler.” However, TheAviationZone.com notes that the Coaler has a top speed of only 472 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 2,050 nautical miles. It also can’t haul a tank.

You can see a video about the YC-14 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPAXgIsQLys
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force helps fight American wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.

That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.


The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)

“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”

Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II soldier was the real Private Ryan

Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.

Sadly, his mother did too.


6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.

No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.

Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.

Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.

Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.

Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 American jet fighters that later became devastating bombers

Some planes have long had a reputation for being deadly in air-to-air combat. That is an arena built for the fast and evasive — and planes get faster and more evasive all the time. But what do we do about the older fighters? Retirement or being passed on, second-hand, to other countries happens to some models, and some of these designs are so good, they last for decades (the P-51 served in a military role until 1985). Other planes, however, undergo a little role change and start dropping bombs instead.


6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
An F-51 Mustang of the U.S. Fifth Air Force’s 18th bomber wing releases two Napalm bombs over an industrial military target in North Korea. The Mustang was a preview of jet fighters that later proved very capable at bombing the enemy. (USAF photo)

In fact, when you look at the most prominent fighters from World War II (the P-51, the F6F Hellcat, the F4U Corsair, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-38 Lightning), they were all multi-role fighters. The jet age was no different — many planes designed for air-to-air became very good at dropping bombs on the enemy on the ground. Here are some of the most prominent.

1. North American F-86 Sabre

The F-86 Sabre dominated the skies during the Korean War, but as the war went on, this plane also had a significant impact as a fighter-bomber. This plane did so well dropping ordnance that the Air Force eventually bought the F-86H, a dedicated fighter-bomber version of the F-86, which served until 1972.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
F-86H Sabres deployed during the Pueblo Crisis. While F-86A/E/Fs were rapidly retired, the F-86H served until 1972. (USAF photo)

2. North American F-100 Super Sabre

Like the F-86, the F-100 was initially intended for air-to-air combat. But the F-100A had its teething problems, and it never saw much combat as a fighter. The F-100D version, however, became a very reliable fighter-bomber. In fact, a later model, the F-100F operational trainer model, was among the first of the Wild Weasels — Vietnam-era bombers that were responsible for taking out enemy air defenses. The F-100 fighter-bombers stuck around until 1979.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
A North American F-100D Super Sabre drops napalm on enemy positions. This plane hung around with the Air National Guard as a fighter-bomber until 1979! (USAF photo)

3. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom

The Navy’s version of the Phantom, the F-4B, was an all-weather interceptor. The Air Force was the first branch to use this airframe as a tactical fighter, and the others quickly followed suit. As F-14s and F-15s emerged into service, F-4s took on more ground-attack missions. Today, those still in service with Turkey and other countries are primarily used for bombing.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
20 years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the F-4 was still a reliable plane for attack missions, dropping precision-guided weapons like this TV-guided GBU-15. (USAF photo)

4. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Lessons learned from Vietnam and the development of new Soviet bombers spurred the development of the F-14 as a pure fighter. It had quite the long reach, too. With the end of the Cold War, though, the Tomcat quickly ran thin on targets in the air and was quickly retooled to attack ground targets. Sadly, it also saw its production ended shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and was retired in 2004. It leaves us to wonder just what could have been for carrier air wings.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
Maverick, Goose, and Iceman made the Tomcat a movie star as a fighter in Top Gun, but in the War on Terror, it was carrying laser-guided bombs to blast terrorists on the ground. (DOD photo)

5. McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle

While the Navy replaced its F-4s with the F-14, the Air Force chose to replace them in the air-to-air role with the F-15. The F-15 dominated as an air-superiority fighter (it still hasn’t lost a for-real dogfight). Then, the Air Force sought to replace the F-4 for the ground-attack missions – and the F-15 was selected. Today, the F-15E is still going strong, bringing the fight to ground forces.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The fact is, an air-superiority fighter need not despair when newer jets come along. It can earn a second lease on life by dropping bombs on the bad guys. It might not be as thrilling as a dogfight, but it’s plenty effective.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USS John S. McCain leaves drydock after crash damage

USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) achieved a major milestone this week as it successfully launched from dry dock and moored pierside at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Nov. 27.

This milestone is an important step in the ongoing effort to repair and restore one of the U.S. Navy’s most capable platforms, and reflects nearly a year’s worth of wide-reaching and successful coordination across multiple organizations. The ship entered dry dock at the Navy’s Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Yokosuka in February.


6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to depart from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyra Watson)

“After the initial repair assessments were conducted, we had to quickly mobilize and determine the most critical steps to develop an executable repair and modernization plan,” explained Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare and Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC), Rear Adm. Jim Downey. “As we began the restoration process, we assembled cohesive teams capable of delivering both materially ready and more modernized ships to the fleet.”

To begin the repair and restoration effort, the Navy immediately reached out to personnel at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine. BIW is the company that originally constructed the ship and currently serves as the planning yard for work on in-service Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The BIW employees worked alongside representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Shipbuilding, also in Bath, Maine, to conduct a material assessment of the ship. That information was then used by SRF-JRMC and the local Japanese repair contractor, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, to plan and swiftly execute the work ahead.

The McCain crew has been involved in every aspect of the availability.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is pulled towards a pier after departing from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

“I’m proud of and thankful for every person who has worked together to move USS John S. McCain another step closer to both normalcy and sailing again with U.S. 7th Fleet,” said Cmdr. Micah Murphy, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I remain impressed by the incredible teamwork, determination and flexibility shown daily by this crew as well as the SRF Project Team to return a better, more lethal warship to the fleet.”

Today, McCain has a fully restored hull, a new port thrust shaft, and newly constructed berthing spaces.

The ongoing availability also includes completing maintenance work that had previously been deferred, which reflects the Navy’s commitment to ensuring that required maintenance on ships is no longer deferred. Additionally, the U.S. Pacific Fleet implemented a new force generation model to protect maintenance, training, and certification requirements prior to operational tasking for ships forward-deployed to Japan, like John S. McCain.

The ship’s crew worked alongside personnel from NAVSEA’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia and Port Hueneme divisions who were challenged to develop a test plan concurrent with repair efforts.

“All key players and industry partners continue to execute the McCain effort with maximum intensity in an environment built on trust and shared goals,” said Capt. Garrett Farman, SRF-JRMC commanding officer. “Our mission is to keep the 7th Fleet operationally ready, and everyone on the team recognizes the immense value that this mission brings to U.S. and Japan mutual interests in keeping our waters safe.”

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to undock as a dry dock is flooded in order to test the ship’s integrity. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

The complex repair and restoration required support and collaboration from all aspects of the U.S. Navy maintenance enterprise, including NSWC Philadelphia and NSWC Port Hueneme; Engineering Directorate (SEA 05); Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare (SEA 21); Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC); Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC); Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC); Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC); Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS); and Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center (FDRMC) Naples and Rota detachment.

Over the next few months, efforts will focus on testing the repaired ship’s systems in preparation for a return to operational tasking.

The Navy’s enterprise leadership continues to make improvements with routine, close oversight provided by the fleet commanders and the Navy staff to generate ready ships and aircraft on-time and on-plan. Improved ship-class maintenance plans are capturing a more robust understanding of fleet maintenance requirements, and the elimination of work deferrals are improving the material condition of the fleet.

This summer, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer inducted Sen. John S. McCain III into the ship’s official namesake alongside his father and grandfather in a ceremony on board, July 12. The crew’s messdecks, known as the Maverick Café, re-opened for business on Nov. 19, the late Senator’s birthday.

John S. McCain is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The ship is expected to complete repairs in late 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns of ‘new path’ if US insists on sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”

In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”


He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.

He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.

Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s speech

www.youtube.com

A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials was canceled in November 2018 and has yet to be rescheduled.

On Dec. 31, 2018, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had sent Trump a “letter-like” message that was “conciliatory” in tone.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said Kim had sent a message to Seoul expressing a desire to hold additional Korean summits in 2019 with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

In 2018, Kim used his New Year’s address to open up a new diplomatic initiative with Washington and Seoul that led to three summits with Moon and the historic Singapore summit with Trump.

Kim also met three times in 2018 with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US soldiers are patrolling with these awesome pocket-sized spy drones

US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.


6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.

Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.

“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.

The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.

A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.

These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.

The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.

Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.

Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany might be considering a nuclear bomb

President Donald Trump’s relationship with Europe has been characterized by him attacking NATO for what he perceives as failures to meet the defense-spending goals alliance members have agreed to work toward.

A consequence of this newly contentious relationship is more interest in Europe in domestic defense capacity. In Germany, that interest is going nuclear.


6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

At the end of July, prominent German political scientist Christian Hacke wrote an essay in Welt am Sonntag, one of the country’s largest Sunday newspapers, arguing Germany needed to respond to uncertainty about US commitment to defending European allies by developing its own nuclear capability.

“For the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is no longer under the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella,” Hacke argued, according to Politico Europe.

“National defense on the basis of a nuclear deterrent must be given priority in light of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations,” Hacke said. Divergent interests among Germany’s neighbors made the prospect of a joint European response “illusory,” he added.

Hacke is not the first in Germany to suggest longstanding ties with the US have fundamentally changed.

In June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Europeans “need a balanced partnership with the US … where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.” Maas compared Trump’s “America First” policies to the policies of Russia and China.

While concern about Trump is very real, Germany is treaty-bound not to develop nuclear weapons, and discussions of doing so are seen as little more than talk.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

(Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Germany developing nuclear military capability, a nuclear weapon, a nuclear deterrent, will never be in the cards ever,” said Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“Things nuclear are always hot in Germany,” said Townsend, who spent eight years as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy. “This is not something that’s going to change and all of a sudden the Germans are going to think seriously about developing a nuclear capability. That’s just not going to happen.”

Others in Germany were also dismissive.

Journalist and defense expert Christian Thiels described the discussion as “a totally phony debate” and referred to Hacke’s argument as a “very individual opinion.” The same question was discussed “by very few think-tankers media people one year ago,” he added, “to zero effect.”

Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German ambassador to the US, argued that Germany’s pursuit of nuclear weapons would set an undesirable precedent.

“If Germany was to relinquish its status as a non-nuclear power, what would prevent Turkey or Poland, for example, from following suit?” he wrote in a response to Hacke. “Germany as the gravedigger of the international non-proliferation regime? Who can want that?”

German plans to phase out nuclear energy likely preclude the development of nuclear weapons, Townsend said, and, as noted by Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in Germany, politicians who can’t convince Germans to support spending 2% of GDP on defense are unlikely to win backing for nuclear weapons.

This is not the first round of this debate.

Not long after Trump’s election, European officials — including a German lawmaker who was foreign-policy spokesman for the governing party — suggested French and British nuclear arsenals could be repurposed to defend the rest of the continent under a joint command with common funding or defense doctrine.

In mid-2017, a review commissioned by Germany’s parliament found Berlin could legally finance another European country’s nuclear weapons in return for protection.

There have been suggestions that “what Europe should do is depend on the French, the French nuclear capability, and the Germans pay into that and thereby kind of fall under the French nuclear umbrella,” Townsend said.

“Well, that’s not going to happen either,” he added. “As cool as it sounds for a think-tank discussion, in reality the French would never do that.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has advocated closer defense cooperation between France and Germany, but Paris has in the past expressed reservations about ceding control of its nuclear weapons. (The UK’s plans to exit the EU complicate its role in any such plan.)

Townsend said the debate was unnecessary, given that its premise — the loss of US nuclear deterrence — was unfounded.

“Trump notwithstanding, the US nuclear guarantee is not going anywhere,” he said. “No matter where we might be domestically as we talk about Europe or as we talk about NATO, we’re not going. Our nuclear guarantee is going to be there.”

But Trump has changed the way Europe thinks about its defense. Some welcome discussion of Germany acquiring nuclear capability, even if they don’t support it.

Ulrich Speck, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said on Twitter that while he didn’t favor “Germany becoming a nuclear state,” he did believe “there is a debate looming with the many question marks over the US with Trump, and that it’s better to have the debate. Germany needs to think through nuclear deterrence.”

“It’s crucial for Germany and Europe that we have a strategic debate,” Ulrike Franke, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico Europe. “What Germany is slowly realizing is that the general structure of the European security system is not prepared for the future.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These may be the top 6 finalists for the new Space Force logo

Anyone with a passing interest in the military, politics, or current events has probably heard by now that there’s a U.S. Space Force on the way, just as soon as Congress can shell out eight billion dollars for the effort. But lack of actual funds didn’t stop Vice President Mike Pence from making the announcement about the Space Force. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that once the President decides to do something, the Trump Administration moves quickly to do it.

The White House is already building a Space Force culture. It’s starting with a logo for the new branch and it wants a handful of special Americans to help choose the new look.


There were few reports that a political action committee related to President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign sent out an email blast just hours after VP Pence’s announcement. The email blast from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee featured six images that looked more like NASA mission patches than military branch logos.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

The email itself was signed by Brad Parscale, Campaign Manager for Donald J. Trump for President, 2020. It encouraged recipients to prepare to “buy a whole line of gear” related to the Space Force and the logo they were asked to pick. One of the logos was a direct rip of the current NASA logo, while another implied that Mars would be the eventual goal of the new Space Force.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

These logo possibilities may or may not have anything to actually do with the real Space Force. But the email blast was apparently sent to members of the news media, including ABC’s Justin Fishel and CNN’s Jake Tapper, and did imply that President Trump personally wanted input on the Space Force logo.

But only Trump’s campaign donors can officially vote for a logo via the email sent directly from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun
6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Meanwhile, in a less official capacity, Bloomberg asked eight leading industry designers to design Space Force logos for the military, and what they came up with was decidedly different, blending traditional military patches, corporate logos, nostalgia for pop culture, and even President Trump himself.

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun