Douglas A-4F Skyhawk topgun
TOP GUN HISTORY:
In the early years of the Vietnam war, the US was not achieving the level of superiority in air- to-air warfare that it had enjoyed in previous conflicts. By 1968, concerned about the relatively low kill rations achieved in Southeast Asia, Captain Frank Ault, serving with the Naval Air Systems Command, recommended the formation of a graduate level school to train a nucleus of fighter crews who would be highly trained in Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) and weapons systems employment. The Navy established "Top Gun" at the Miramar Naval Air Station in 1969. It was a four week course that provided Navy pilots instruction that simulated realistic combat conditions. VF-121, the Pacific Fleet F-4 Replacement Training Squadron, was directed to establish a graduate level program for the entire Navy F-4 community. The first class convened on 3 March 1969, and TOPGUN was formally commisioned as a separate command at NAS Miramar on 7 July 1972.
In October 1985, TOPGUN became an Echelon II Shore Command reporting direclty to the Chief of Naval Operations. Navy Fighter Weapons School is the primary authority for Navy and Marine Corps tactics development and training. TOPGUN continues to refine fighter tactics in Power Projection and Maritime Air Superiority to keep the Fleet abreast of and trained to current tactical developments.
TOPGUN conducts five Power Projection classes a year, each six-weeks in duration, to twelve Fleet fighter and strike fighter aircrews. This class is designed to train experienced Navy and Marine Corps fighter aircrews at the graduate level in all aspects of fighter aircraft employment, including tactics, hardware, technique, and the current world threat. The course of instruction includes approximatley eighty hours of lectures and a rigorous flight syllabus that pits student aircrews against F-16N (in service from 1987 - 1995, replaced by F/A-18 Hornets), A-4, and F-14 adversary aircraft flown by TOPGUN instructors. Ultimately, each new graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School will return as a Training Officer carrying the latest tactical doctrine back to his operational squadron.
Concurrent with each Power Projection Class, TOPGUN conducts an Adversary Training Course, flying with adversary aircrew from each Navy and Marine Corps adversary squadron. These pilots receive individual instruction in threat simulation, effective threat presentation, and adversary tactics. With each class, TOPGUN also trains four Air Intercept Controllers (AIC) in effective communication, coordination, and display interpretation skills.
In addition to the Power Projection Course, TOPGUN provides a wide variety of training to the Navy and Marine Corps. Prior to each deployment, Navy fighter and strike fighter aircrews participate in Fleet Air Superiority Training (FAST) and Hornet Fleet Air Superiority Training (HFAST). FAST and HFAST are coordinated programs of academics, simulator, and flight training designed to provide current threat updates with emphasis on achieving Maritime Air Superiority in the carrier group arena.
TOPGUN also provides academic and flight training to each Carrier Air Wing during their Integrated and Advanced Training Phases (ITP/ATP) at NAS Fallon. These large scale exercises involving as many as fifty aircraft serve as "dress rehearsals" for future combat scenarios and provide critical integration training to each air wing.
TOPGUN conducts dedicated ground school courses six times per year. The Training Officer Ground School (TOGS) offers graduate level academics to Fleet aviatiors, adversary instructors, and other officers and enlisted personnel in critical training abilites. Additionally, Navy Fighter Weapons School participates in Fighter ACM Readiness Programs for the F-14 (FFARP) and the F/A-18 (SFARP) communities which are formally administered by adversary squadrons on each coast. Finally, TOPGUN convenes a Senior Officer Refresher Course (SORC) four times each year, providing a forum for tactical debate and development with senior Navy and Marine Corps officers.
Today, TOPGUN touches each Navy and Marine Corps aviator in many ways. From providing squadron training officers, to orchestrating large training exercises, to the variety of technical and tactical publications authored by the staff, TOPGUN stands as the center of tactical thought and theory in Navy and Marine Coprs fighter training. Tactics being developed today at the Navy Fighter Weapons School will enable tactical aircrews to carry an aggressive and successful fight to the enemy well into the next century.
In 1997, the Miramar Naval Air Base in San Diego changed hands from a Naval Air Station to a Marine airbase. The Top Gun school was moved to Falloon Naval Air Station, about 60 miles from Reno, Nevada.