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What the “MiG-28” in Top Gun Looked Like

The F-5 is a notable American jet because it gave rise to the T-38 Talon, the world’s most mass-produced supersonic trainer.

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The year 2022 will be dominated at the box office by Top Gun: Maverick. It’s no secret that Top Gun: Maverick is a cultural phenomenon.

The plot of Maverick continues with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) navigating the military’s chain of command and getting ready to face a foreign force with nuclear ramifications.

The initial film followed Maverick as he battled MiG-28 planes belonging to an anonymous opponent; this sequel is a highly successful continuation of that story.

The Northrop F-5 was chosen as the model to represent the imaginary fighter because of its streamlined, arrowlike appearance.

Since its inception in the 1950s, the F-5 has been a privately funded project. It’s a lightweight, supersonic jet. Despite how it looks, it’s incredibly aerodynamic. Two General Electric J85 engines were the basis for the F-5’s design. While developing the F-5, Northrop aimed to create a high-performance jet that was also inexpensive and simple to maintain. The final product Northrop made was minimalistic and compact. Though it excelled at establishing air supremacy, it could also strike targets on the ground if necessary.

The maximum speed of the F-5 was 1.63 mach and estimated its range at 554. It could reach its maximum altitude of 51,800 feet in about 90 seconds, at 34,500 feet per minute. The F-5 had an excellent arsenal, including two 20mm M39A2 revolver canons and seven hard points for missiles, rockets, or bombs.

The export market was particularly receptive to Northrop’s low-cost, lightweight air superiority fighter. Northrop made sales of the F-5 in every region of the world. Even though Northrop ceased F-5 manufacture in 1987, many countries still use the aircraft.

The F-5 may have enjoyed widespread acclaim in other countries, but it was hardly ever used by American forces. In 1965, the F-5 experienced six months of combat service, flying several sorties over South Vietnam and Laos. The United States Air Force primarily used the F-5 for training purposes. Like in Top Gun, these planes were used as decoys for hostile jets.

The T-38 Talon, the United States’ most widely produced supersonic trainer, is a direct descendant of the F-5. Undergraduate Pilot Training for the Air Force still includes a T-38 phase for those interested in the fighter or bomber track. Every Air Force pilot who flies the F-22, the F-15, or the B-2 has prior experience in an F-5 derivative. Fans have seen the F-5 in action, in black livery under the name “MiG-28,” as a threatening presence in the original Top Gun, and some of them may not even be aware of it.

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