TOPGUN is a nickname for what began as the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School and is now known as the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program. Formerly located at Naval Air Station Miramar in California, TOPGUN is now located at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada. A media account of a TOPGUN class formed the basis of the movie Top Gun.
The United States Navy Fighter Weapons School was established on March 3, 1969 at Naval Air Station Miramar near San Diego, California. In the movie, Charlie notes that TOPGUN utilizes the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-5 Freedom Fighter as aggressor aircraft simulating MiGs. The real TOPGUN did indeed utilize the A-4 and borrowed T-38 Talon aircraft from the U.S. Air Force (the T-38 is a non-armed training variant of the F-5) as aggressor aircraft. Later, the F-16 Fighting Falcon was also used as an aggressor aircraft.
The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended that Naval Air Station Miramar be transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps due to the same commission recommending the closure the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. The commission also recommended that TOPGUN be moved to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. In 1996, TOPGUN was moved to Naval Air Station Fallon and integrated into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. The combined program is currently known as the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program.
In the movie, Jester explained the real-life origins of TOPGUN to the class. He noted that the air-to-air kill ratio of U.S. Navy pilots dropped from a high of 12:1 during the Korean War to a low of 3:1 during the early years of the Vietnam War. Jester explained that the drop was attributed to pilots' increased reliance on air-to-air missiles, and as a result, pilots "lost some of their dogfighting skills. TOPGUN was created to teach ACM: air combat maneuvering. Dogfighting." Jester then noted that by the end of the Vietnam War, the Navy's air-to-air kill ratio was back up to 12:1.
In Top Gun, the principal plot revolved around U.S. Navy crewmembers attending TOPGUN at Miramar for the first time. In Top Gun: Maverick, the crewmembers have all already graduated from TOPGUN and are a part of a special detachment aboard an aircraft carrier.