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Missed chance of Tonka exchange to Hollywood fame

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Missed chance of Tonka exchange to Hollywood fame

Old 9th Aug 2013, 07:40
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Missed chance of Tonka exchange to Hollywood fame

Looking at the credits at the end of the movie, see the list of Top Gun instructors and one of them is the the author of Top Gun Days. He was a RIO at the time

He says in the first page in Chapter Eight, after completing the Top Gun course, in the early 80s, he had the option of applying on an exchange as a backseater to the RAF and their new Tornados Then he kept thinking a becoming a Top Gun instructor and did that instead...fast forward to a few years helped out Hollywood in the movie along with their ops officer call sign 'Rat' (who ended up as Vice Chief of Naval Operations ).

Laying aside the FAA and influence in setting up of the school, , has anyone from the likes of Conningsby / FJ OEU ever sat in on one of the courses when they were run at Miramar then Fallon after relocation?

What would be the current NSFW course be comparable to over here?


Last edited by chopper2004; 9th Aug 2013 at 07:41.
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Old 9th Aug 2013, 18:25
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The F14/F3 exchange between the USN/RAF was between NAS Oceana/RAF Coningsby.

Much later, after the Marines moved from El Toro to Miramar, then there was an RAF/USMC exchange on the F18. However, the Top Gun school had long since moved.

Does that help?
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Old 9th Aug 2013, 18:33
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Cheers Leon, much appreciated what I meant was, the Top Gun course was modeled along the lines of the AWI course run at Lossiemouth when it was FAA so what's the closest course the RAF run to this day akin to the course at Fallon.
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Old 9th Aug 2013, 18:53
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That would be the QWI(AD) course - also, a very hard course to pass with a significant failure rate (certainly in my time).

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Old 15th Aug 2013, 17:39
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I never sat in at Fallon but as a former Liaison Officer at Nellis sat in on many briefings and Flag events.

In deciding whether to take an overseas tour it depends so much on the system. In the US, with promotion gates being so critical (up or out), timing can be the driving factor. In UK, an exchange tour is often seen as a positive broadening experience and is good for promotion. US Officers may slow their career by volunteering.. In the days of the Cold War, Brit VFR in Europe was a challenge for pilots brought up in CONUS. Some died. Most Brits found US procedures frustrating but tactical thinking innovative. US hardware was undoubtedly better developed and tested.

It would be indiscreet to tell tales on the internet but suffice to say that there are few peers for the Air Forces of the US and the UK. Only money has prevented the UK from being as effective.

On the Air Force side, and with quite a lot of experience of how the courses are run, both weapons courses are a significant challenge and graduates can be proud.

Last edited by Geehovah; 15th Aug 2013 at 17:51.
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Old 15th Aug 2013, 20:27
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In my (not at all recent) experience - flying against/with Top Gun and against/with USAF FWS (F-15C course) as instructor, adversary (with 422nd) and friendly forces as well as numerous Flags on Blue and Red, AWC trials, etc - the courses are not strictly comparable.

The 6-month UK QWI course ranges across the spectrum from OCU instructor to mission commander, ie ground-school academic to first radar sortie all the way to tactical and beyond, while Top Gun in my time was a short (6-8 weeks? I forget) scenario-driven, tactics-heavy course - the sexy end. Top Gun was the solely DACT: 1v1, 1v1v1, 2v2, etc, etc on the way up to Balbos of varying sizes and could include work-outs against types that you weren't allowed to have seen. Graduates from the UK course could find themselves on the OCU, Sqn or OEU whereas Top Gun graduates, especially USN, almost exclusively came from and went back to their sqn.

Don't get me wrong, it was very hard work for those involved (and there were some wonderful aviators on both staff and student cohorts), but it was not a pass/fail course and it had nothing like the brutal (OTT?) rigour of the USAF FWS (or indeed the RAF course) where you could fail the brief and be done for the day before dawn and then talk about the debrief of the brief for 10 hours (ah, the sweet memories). There will be those on here who recognize the experience.

As a rule, the USMC used to send its pilots/crews on its combined Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) first so that they could get the academics and instructional stuff down before going on to the more sexy stuff at Top Gun. WTI wasn't by any means all academic though: missions like 12-ship FLIR/NVG strikes and FastFAC/CAS were also part of it complete with helicopters, C-130s and stuff. In the USMC, you were not considered the equivalent of a QWI or FWS graduate until you had completed both courses. In my view, it was this discipline that made the USMC aviators more rounded instructors (and better briefers and debriefers). And, of course, the USMC guys (no girls in my time) were combined arms trained so could do the A-G thing with the grunts too.

As for the exchanges, the F-18 exchange moved from Beaufort to Kaneohe to El Toro and then to Miramar on the back of software changes, but was concurrent with the East Coast F-14 exchange. In my time, many of the guys from the film were still around and, by then, COs and XOs of fighter squadrons in both the USN and USMC. And, yes, they were very handy in a gunfight.

The career thing was more nuanced. Some of the US exchange officers sent to the UK were distinctly average precisely because of the conscious decision to pass over one's career to go on it. Of course, there were also some very good people who didn't care and came anyway (often on their way to the airlines!), but most of the time people wouldn't swap, say, F-15 for a Tornado F3 and take the risk - and who could blame them?!

Going the other way, the risks were similar, but generally only a slight delay in career progress. And we tended to send people as a bit of a reward, which is why so many of the exchange officers were QWIs. However, even the RAF eventually realized the career risk and started seeking flight commander exchange tours to avoid the need for two sqn ldr flying tours (since exchange officers were often promoted early while in the US). That sped up the process and allowed individuals to compete directly with their peers.

Finally, there was a distinct difference between the flying at Miramar and Fallon in my time. The former was Top Gun, but the latter was fleet readiness so involved the Air Wing turning up and being put through its paces, albeit in a more scripted fashion. I was there when Top Gun was told it was moving to Fallon - the radiant joy was palpable; not sure how many actually moved...

And I have no doubt that everything I've just described is completely different now!
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Old 16th Aug 2013, 22:52
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It was, and is up to a couple of years ago, rare for USMC to send pilots and aircrew to WTI before sending them to a type school Top Gun/USAF FWS for Hornets or AATTS for Herks. I really never figured out where/what Lawn darts and Queers did as pre-WTI.

The basic theory is to first start out as say an instrument instructor, then NATOPS, FCF, etc. in order to see is someone made a good instructor and not waste resources. No one long school to cover all instructor sub specialties but a block approach.

In my experience the USAF courses were all brief/de-brief. Regurgitate exactly what was passed in class and no understanding of why or deviation allowed. The actual flight portion seemingly to be irrelevant. The normal USAF barb thrown at Marines was along the lines of “you’re counting electrons and need to know how everything actually works”.

I think you’re being charitable on the quality of those Marines on exchange tours. Most not being competitive for promotion or more than basic qualifications. More than a few only received qualifications after being the only volunteer for an exchange slot. Individuals orders coming down from DoD via HQMC directing such individuals to be qualified in XYZ.

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