In the early years of the Vietnam War, the United States was not achieving the level of superiority in air-to-air warfare that it had enjoyed in previous conflicts. In 1969, the Navy established the “Top Gun” school at the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego: a four-week course to provide pilots instruction that simulated realistic combat conditions. The class was designed to train experienced Navy and Marine Corps fighter aircrews at the graduate level in all aspects of fighter aircraft employment, including taking part in “dog fights” against instructors flying aircraft especially designed to simulate enemy planes.
In 1986, a movie called Top Gun was produced with dramatic effect, helping citizens of the world better understand what the pilots went through and could achieve.
The “Air Combat Maneuvering Range” training system used in the Top Gun school was designed, engineered, and manufactured in San Diego by Cubic Corporation. Cubic PR director Jerry Ringer worked with the Navy to host and produce the premiere showing of the feature-length Top Gun film in the San Diego Town and Country Convention Center. News media from all areas of journalism covered the premiere which featured Top Gun trainees and graduates. Cubic’s key technical people were also available and the convention center was decorated with giant American flags.
Since a great many of the film’s scenes were filmed locally, coupled with the attractiveness of the stars, the movie brought worldwide attention and glamour to all of San Diego County. It also showed America’s taxpayers the skills and abilities of its fighting men and women. The movie made fine entertainment for the entire family and extensive media coverage by magazines, newspapers, and TV filled the theaters. The film, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, earned wide praise, including an Oscar for best music and three other Oscar nominations.
In 1997, the Miramar Naval Air Base changed hands from a Naval Air Station to a Marine airbase. The Top Gun school was moved to Fallon Naval Air Station, about 60 miles from Reno, Nevada, where Top Gun training continues using the system developed by Cubic.