Is The MiG-28 Real? What Jet Top Gun Actually Used

Top Gun fans recall the MiG-28 from the climax of the blockbuster but is this jet plane real, and if not, what real-life model was used in the movie?

Top Gun fans will recall that the MiG-28 made an appearance during the climax of the 1986 blockbuster but is this jet plane real, and if not, what real-life model was used in the movie? Released in 1986, the cult classic Tom Cruise vehicle Top Gun remains a favorite among many action movie aficionados.

The story of Maverick, a cocky recruit who weathers personal tragedy to become one of the fastest and most skilful pilots the Navy has ever seen, the simply-plotted hit Top Gun succeeded at the box office thanks to the slick, stylish direction of the late action cinema icon Tony Scott. The movie’s propulsive story combined personal drama with plenty of high-flying action to great effect, as epitomized by the thrilling closing sequence.

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Related: How Top Gun: Maverick’s Jet Fighter Action Scenes Were Filmed

During this aerial combat sequence, Top Gun’s denouement frequently cuts to an enemy plane referred to in the movie as a “MiG-28.” This inevitably prompted fans to wonder whether the model actually exists or if it was invented for use in the movie, a question that persists to this day. The MiG-28 is fake, and in reality, Top Gun used a Northrop F-5 that was painted black especially for the scene. Obsessives will likely have been able to guess this fact thanks to one subtle tell-tale detail, which is that in reality as MiGs are odd-numbered. As such, the fact that this Top Gun aircraft is designated an even number gives away the game for eagle-eyed viewers.

Tom Cruise Maverick Top Gun Danger Zone

In reality, the MiG-28 seen in the movie is a real-life F-5 that the production painted black to make it less recognizable and more visually threatening for dramatic effect. This plane and the rest of the movie’s many aircraft were mostly on loan from the real-life US Navy, who assisted with the production of Top Gun from script to screen. Quite literally, as the Pentagon demanded access to the movie’s original shooting script so that the organization could changes to anything that didn’t fit their desired public perception. Since Top Gun was far from a protest movie, the most notable change the Pentagon insist on was that the creators make Cruise’s love interest Charlie a civilian rather than another recruit, as office romances were strictly prohibited at the time.

Using the F-5 as a stand-in for the fictitious villainous craft was a clever decision for the Top Gun filmmakers to make, as the black paint job allowed them to obscure the national origin of the enemy plane. Although they were originally intended to be explicitly North Korean, the cagey political environment of the 80s led the Top Gun creators to never reveal where the movie’s villains originated from throughout the movie’s brisk runtime. Many of the jet planes featured in the original movie will be making a triumphant return to the screen in Top Gun: Maverick, alongside  numerous new models that will be making their screen debut in the long-awaited action sequel when it finally arrives in cinemas next year.

More: Everything We Know About Top Gun: Maverick

Key Release Dates

  • Top Gun: Maverick/Top Gun 2 (2021)Release date: Jul 02, 2021

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