Every real-life Maverick war since Top Gun

Top Gun's take on the Navy contains a lot of fiction, but Top Gun: Maverick confirms that Tom Cruise's heroes did serve in some real-life wars.

Somewhere between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise's character has had at least three real-life canonical fights. Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick may both be naval-centric, but neither of these two action blockbusters paints a particularly realistic picture of life in the U.S. military establishment. From trophies to pilot rankings to empty hangars used as makeshift classrooms, Top Gun's glorified and fictionalized renditions of the real-life TOPGUN school that inspired the 1986 cult classic.

Influential action film director Tony Scott, the director of Top Gun, even admitted that he felt sorry for the many recruits who were attracted by the film's glamorous portrayal of the Navy and ended up on a dirty aircraft carrier doing heavy work. However, while the goofy escapism of Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick has little in common with real-life Navy service, this long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster reveals that Maverick does Involved in some real conflicts between the two films. According to his Top Gun: Maverick lover Penny, Maverick fought in at least three real wars off-screen.

What Maverick Has Done Since Top Gun

Penny mentions Maverick's Navy experience in confronting the talented but reckless test pilot He has been criticized for his tendency to rely on the Iceman for help in times of emotional or professional challenges. Penny accuses Maverick of relying on Iceman's favor throughout his caregiving, a pattern she claims has seen him redeploy repeatedly before facing the consequences of his actions or building a meaningful family life for himself. While Iceman and Maverick's reunion was a poignant highlight of Top Gun: Maverick, it's hard to deny that Penny's assessment of the post-Maverick Top Gun paradigm seems to be correct.

At the beginning of Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise's anti-hero is participating in a venture aimed at perfecting a manned aircraft capable of flying at Mach 10. When Maverick tests an experimental aircraft against orders from his superiors, he again risks his life and career only for the Iceman to cover for him. Penny claims this happened when Maverick commandeered an F-18 and took her for a ride on the plane, "then in Bosnia" and later "in Iraq -- twice." While this dialogue exchange is brief, it tells viewers a lot about Maverick's life after the events of Top Gun.


The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina took place between 1992 and 1995, which means the conflict takes place less than a decade after the end of Maverick's Top Gun story. The clashes took place between Bosnians and Croats, with the U.S. Navy providing aircraft, air support, air patrols, and search and rescue. As a member of the Navy, Maverick was most likely to be involved in an element of the conflict known as Operation Rip Guard, a NATO naval blockade of cargo destined for the former Yugoslavia. The three-year operation lasted from 1993 to 1996 and involved the seizure of a merchant ship carrying weapons and a fight with an oil tanker.


Maverick's earliest involvement in Iraqi operations may have been in 1990 as Operation Desert Shield (not to be confused with a 2006 exercise of the same name in the same country). Since Top Gun is about the navy and not the air force, Maverick won't be involved in the early stages of the Gulf War, which began with the bombing of Kuwait in August 1990. By August 8, 1990, the U.S. Navy had sent two aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Independence. Two battleships USS Missouri Both the USS Wisconsin and the USS Wisconsin were also involved in the conflict.

Iraq (Again)

Penny sarcastically notes that Maverick was sent to Iraq "twice", which is an understatement of the two US invasions of Iraq between 1989 and 2004. The second invasion of Iraq was justified by false claims that Saddam Hussein's regime was developing weapons of mass destruction in the country that began in March 2003 despite massive global protests against the US military action. It is estimated that more than 1 million Iraqis were killed in the ensuing conflict. Top Gun: Maverick isn't a war movie, so the sequel doesn't linger too long on the human cost of the invasion and its astronomical numbers. Instead, the two Iraq wars are secondary footnotes in Top Gun's biography: the maverick hero who fills in his unseen adventures between Top Gun movies.

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