TOPGUN patch

When Navy fighter aircraft failed to meet combat expectations in the skies over Vietnam from 1965 to 1968, an official inquiry (known as the Ault Report) recommended creating an advanced fighter weapons school at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego. A lieutenant commander and eight junior officers set up an office and classroom in an abandoned trailer, designed a course, and started teaching fighter aircrews to be aggressive, expert dog-fighters. Their impact was immediate and dramatic—by 1972 the Navy’s kill ratio against the Vietnam People’s Air Force had improved five-fold.

In the years since, TOPGUN has been an innovation engine, creating tactics, teaching expertise, standardizing training, and driving technology and weapons requirements for the Navy fighter and strike-fighter communities. More recently, TOPGUN has been the model for other warfare communities as they built advanced school houses and developed expert cadres of weapons tactics instructors to improve their own lethality and effectiveness.

TOPGUN’s history and lessons are rich and meaningful. Well done to the 50 years of “patch wearers,” and sincere thanks to the five authors who brought us their insights this month.

TOPGUN staff in front of a two-seat F-16N at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada

Junior Officers: TOPGUN’s Foundation

By Captain Kevin “Proton” McLaughlin and Lieutenant Commander Graham “Heed” Scarbro, U.S. Navy
September 2019
The junior officers who comprise the TOPGUN staff remain its heart and engine in the half-century since it was first stood up.
Three U.S. Navy F-5 Tiger II adversary aircraft in flight

TOPGUN’s Impact

By Commander Christopher “Pops” Papaioanu, U.S. Navy, and Mr. Brad Elward
September 2019
From 1969 to 2019, TOPGUN has remained laser focused on naval aviation’s mission.

Episode 106 - TOPGUN's Impact

07 September 2019
Live from Tailhook 2019, CDR "Pops" Papaioanu, CO of TOPGUN, talks about the school's impact on the fleet over the last 50 years. Podcast theme: "Space Eyes" by Drivin 'N Cryin. Follow them at @drivinncryin
A Navy F-5 in afterburner at sunset

TOPGUN’s Next Challenge

By Captain Thomas “Jethro” Bodine, U.S. Navy
September 2019
A TOPGUN-style introspective is warranted to uncover the enduring “goods” while highlighting a mounting challenge for naval aviation.
More from Proceedings

Two F-14 Tomcats go “beak to beak” in the skies near Fallon, Nevada

Topgun: Getting It Right

By Lieutenant James A. Winnefeld Jr., U. S. Navy
October 1986
We cannot afford to “brush up” tactically at the last minute or to have to learn by many mistakes. Navy TacAir will have to get it right the first time.