The two-minute trailer of Tom Cruise's upcoming movie Top Gun: Maverick appears to have taken the internet by storm since its release on Thursday.
In the trailer, Cruise has retained the aviator shades, motorcycle and the general fighter pilot machismo from the first movie 33 years ago, with one crucial difference: He is flying a new fighter. A new aircraft that may well be flying in the colours of the Indian Air Force and Navy in a few years...
In the original Top Gun,released in 1986, Cruise's character flew an F-14 Tomcat fighter, then the main air superiority fighter of the US Navy. In Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, currently the main multi-role fighter of the US Navy. Both aircraft were designed primarily for use on aircraft carriers of the US Navy.
The Super Hornet, manufactured by Boeing, has been on offer to the Indian Air Force for over a decade. It was proposed for the Indian Air Force's now-aborted deal to purchase 126 fighter aircraft, which eventually ended in the selection of the French Rafale in 2012. With the Indian Air Force still facing a massive shortage of fighter jets, Boeing has not given up hopes on a contract for the Super Hornet and has pitched it in an ongoing tender for 114 fighters.
The Super Hornet is also being considered for an Indian Navy contract for 57 fighter aircraft for its future aircraft carriers. Boeing officials have repeatedly affirmed the company has conducted successful simulations of launching the Super Hornet from the Indian Navy's aircraft carriers, which don't have the steam catapults found on the larger US Navy ships. Steam catapults help launch aircraft at heavier weights, improving endurance and combat efficiency.
The value of the Indian Air Force contract alone is estimated to be about $15 billion, highlighting the value of the Indian market for the Super Hornet. Boeing has pulled all stops to promote the Super Hornet in India, announcing a unique 'public-private' tie-up with HAL and Mahindra Defence Systems in April 2018 to manufacture the fighter under the 'Make in India' programme. Boeing has also declared it was offering India the latest variant of the Super Hornet, dubbed the Super Hornet Block 3, featuring an improved radar, modernised cockpit and additional fuel tanks.
The Super Hornet has already been sold to the Royal Australian Air Force, while Kuwait has ordered 28 of the jets.
The F-14 vs F/A-18
The Super Hornet was ordered by the US Navy after the US government decided to stop purchases of the F-14 Tomcat in 1991. The Super Hornet was an extensive modification of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter, which also was in service with the US Navy. The Super Hornet was about 20 per cent larger than the older jet and had more range and weapons-carriage capabilities.
The Super Hornet was touted as being more affordable and less maintenance intensive than the larger, older F-14 Tomcat. The Tomcat, which was as much a star in Top Gun as Tom Cruise was, however, still has its backers. Critics of the Super Hornet say it lacks the speed and range of the F-14 to protect US Navy aircraft carriers. The F-14 was retired by the US Navy in 2006 and remains in service only with Iran, which bought the fighter in the late 1970s.
The F-14 Tomcat was designed primarily as long-range fighter meant for air-to-air combat, while the Super Hornet's design placed emphasis on carrying and bringing back air-to-ground weapons. So, while the first Top Gun is mostly about aerial combat, the trailer of Top Gun: Maverick sees the Super Hornet carrying air-to-ground bombs in at least two scenes.
PS: Watch the trailer of Top Gun: Maverick to see whether the F-14 is still around!