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TOPGUN graduates compare the film to the real thing

"Top Gun" the movie vs reality
"Top Gun: Maverick" gets a reality check from actual graduates 03:50

"Top Gun: Maverick" was one of the highest grossing and most recognized films of 2022. The revival of the Tom Cruise classic gave viewers another taste of what it's like flying in some of the United States Navy's most advanced aircrafts. But how accurate was it?

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Norah O'Donnell interviewed Admiral Samuel Paparo, the commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet and a TOPGUN graduate. O'Donnell asked Adm. Paparo how the Hollywood version compared to the real thing. 

"I saw a couple of maneuvers and I turned to my kids and described what they were," Adm. Paparo told 60 Minutes. "And there were numerous maneuvers that are completely applicable in air combat maneuvering…I thought that the flying scenes on the first one were incredible. But there was even more realism in 'Top Gun: Maverick.'"

Adm. Samuel Paparo walking along the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. Eric Kerchner/60 Minutes

In his post, Adm. Paparo oversees about 200 ships and roughly 150,000 sailors and civilians, some of whom also graduated from the famed Navy school for fighter pilots. 

"The flying is fairly accurate, to an extent," Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Tucker told O'Donnell. "The camera shots in the aircraft were…real. But as far as the fake mission, and kind of the story behind it, maybe not quite as accurate."

Tucker said there's no Penny ringing a bell at the bar at the real TOPGUN. 

One thing the film gets right is that all naval aviators have call signs they use in the air while flying. While on the USS Nimitz, 60 Minutes did not see a Maverick, Goose, or Rooster, but aboard was a Frodo, Bubbles, and Fozzie Bear.

You can watch Norah O'Donnell's two-part story on the U.S. Navy and its preparedness potential military conflict below.

Is the Navy ready? How the U.S. is preparing amid a naval buildup in China | 60 Minutes 27:24

The video at the top was produced by Keith Zubrow, Keith Sharman, and Roxanne Feitel and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger. 

"Top Gun: Maverick" was produced by CBS's parent company, Paramount.

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