Who were they fighting in "Top Gun"?

In the end of the movie “Top Gun”, Maverick, Ice-Man and others get into a real, honest-to-goodness dogfight with enemy fighters and win. My question is, who is the enemy supposed to be? The fighters were Migs so obviously they were Russian manufactured but I don’t think that the U.S. could ever go into a small-scale war with the Soviet Union even in a movie. Who in the hell were they fighting?

I think it actually was supposed to be Russians… part of the idea behind the movie was that there were supposedly all these skirmishes between the USA and USSR that were never made public.

According to the script that’s floating around out there (which I shan’t be linking to), here are the relevant bits:

Actually movies dialogue may be different though. Anyways, looks like they’re dodging that issue intentionally.

For what it’s worth, the airplane that the ‘Russians’ were flying were Northrop T-38’s. The air force has hundreds of them for supersonic training.

The movie repeatedly copped out by NEVER saying what nation the “bogeys” were flying for. They never said they were fighting “the Russians” or “the Soviets.” Only “MIGs.”

Now, obviously MIGs were Soviet planes, but the Russians sold MIGs to many other countries. So, “Top Gun” left open the possibility that the enemy could be from an number of countries. In short, Tony Scott wanted to be jingoistic, but NOT to tick off the Russians.

The enemy planes in “Top Gun” were like enemy ships in a video game. They were the bad guys because, well, because there had to be bad guys, and they were it.

Who cares, it was a crap film anyway.

Close. Northrop F-5s.

I grew up at NAS Miramar, dad was a Naval officer, and the whole immediate family (except my sister) are or were pilots. I rather liked the film.

Aside from whether or not the movie was good, the OP: They were fighting “The Enemy” of course.


I think it was supposed to be the Libyans. The movie came out at a time when Moammar Qaddaffi was being quite a scamp, internationally speaking.

The line about the Navy ship drifting into “international waters” which turn out to be contested is perhaps a reference to Libya’s Gulf of Sidra, which Qaddaffi used to claim as sovereign territorial waters, prompting show-the-flag cruises by US carrier groups etc. etc. … Anyway, the upshot is that one day we sent some F-111’s to blow the shit out of Libya and after that Qaddaffi basically kept his mouth shut.

I agree Libya was the obvious inspiration, being about the only Middle Eastern nation with which we’ve had a running dispute over territorial waters, as well as a MiG-user.

They did refer to the F-5s as MiGs throughout the movie, but Iran was still flying F-5s at the time (and may still be, as I think parts are pretty widely available). It wouldn’t be unreasonable to set the final dogfights around the Straits of Hormuz, in sort of a precursor to the “tanker war” of the later '80s.

They really didn’t go to too much trouble to root things in a specific reality, though. The insignia on the bad guys’ planes was fictional – Consider them the “People’s Republic of Generica”

They referred to the F-5s not only as MiGs, but as "MiG 32"s - ther ain’t no such critter, but they wanted the audience to believe the they were fighting Soviet-made fighters flown by a middle-eastern country. Kinda like the F-4 Phatoms in one of the “Iron Eagle” (shudder) sequels with red stars painted on them, which were supposedly MiG-29s.

Notice that in the Mirimar scenes, the aggressors were only flying A-4 Skyhawks, despite the fact that at the time the movie was filmed and set in, the Navy aggressor squadrons at Mirimar flew a mix of A-4s and F-5s. They didn’t even have any F-5s on the flightline in the background. That’s also why the faux-MiGs were painted black and the pilots faces were never shown (even though they were wearing American flight gear…). The only thing missing was “BAD GUYS” stencilled on the F-5’s in red paint.