Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meeting the original Top Gun!

Today has been a fabulous day! A bunch of us journalists were invited to interact with Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet who is on an official visit to India. An accomplished F-14 pilot who has pretty much had all the dream appointments of any US Naval aviator, the Admiral has a special bond with Hollywood.

Admiral Willard, it is little known, was the aerial coordinator for the 1986 film Top Gun, and flew every one of the fictitious enemy MiG-28 (a Northrop F-5 painted black) and A-4 Skyhawk sorties depicted the film's enthralling merge/dogfight sequences. So he was basically flew all the flights flown by the nameless black-helmeted MiG-28 pilot and the instructor Jester's sorties in the A-4.

"A great memory for me and my family, who got to watch the volleyball scene we shot. Especially for me, to have flown in it. So my claim to fame is, I'm the guy in the black helmet. And that helmet, still sits under glass in my office in Pearl Harbour," he told me when I asked him about the memories.

Admiral Willard was XO at the Naval Fighter Weapons School Top Gun at the time. Great man. When I asked him about the unlikelihood of merge/dogfight combat in modern aerial warfare, he had cheeky smile and said, "No matter how far technology of aerial warfare goes, I like to think the dogfight is still a reality, at least in concept."

6 comments :

Anonymous said...

great stuff. congratulations!

Divine said...

The truth is that the USAF is the first airforce that recognized that the Dog fight is messy and they might come in second best if they went against the advances in aircraft and helmet cued IIR seeker missiles of the FSU.
They have long since moved into an era that will see them take off their adversary at stand-off ranges with missiles like the AMRAAM and the upcoming european METEOR. Furthermore, they have invested heavily in soft kill technology - what the rest of the world will still call science fiction.
Their airborne laser aircraft can eliminate enemy aircraft swiftly and from long distances, the AESA radars can deliver concentrated microwave energy into enemy aircraft that will burn out the electronics of the incoming aircraft or missile. They have electromagnetic pulse generating technology that will destroy all unprotected enemy electronics and disable aircraft, warships, communications, and all this without them even having to fire a shot!

Carefully notice what the good admiral has said as also what he has not said.

The US military is so far ahead of the game in matters military - and the rest of the world is still stuck in the obsolete paradigm of Nuclear Weapons as deterrence.

Aditya said...

Nice article, Shiv.

He was also immortalized in the movie thanks to one line during the climax; where Tom Cruise has just taken off to intercept - The CAG (bald guy smoking the cigar) says "Ready Willard and Simkin on Cats 3 & 4"

Anonymous said...

Its not XO ...but its written as Ex-O...pronounced the same way though.

Shiv I suggest you do some classes or train for some time in those defence correspondents course or something like that

Anonymous said...

Its not XO ...but its written as Ex-O...pronounced the same way though.

Shiv I suggest you do some classes or train for some time in those defence correspondents course or something like that

Anonymous said...

It is appropriate to use XO as written shorthand, though when writing formally you may want to spell out "Executive Officer".

Aside from being a Top Gun, Admiral Willard is a visionary, an outstanding leader and a person I hope you and the media worldwide continue to watch. His contributions to the US Navy and to the Joint Warfighting community are to be studied and celebrated.