While it might seem surprising that the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor doesn’t appear in Top Gun: Maverick, there’s a solid justification for this.

While the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor might be the aircraft that many viewers expected to see in Top Gun: Maverick, the Top Gun sequel opted not to use this model for two reasons. Aeronautical engineering has come a long way since the 1980s. Like 1986’s original cult classic Top Gun, 2022’s long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick was given access to real-life military technology in exchange for the producers allowing the Department of Defense to shape how the Navy was depicted in the movie. As a result, viewers might reasonably have expected to see the cream of the institution’s weaponry on display.


However, although the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is arguably the most famous U.S. military aircraft, it would not have made sense for Maverick to fly one in Top Gun: Maverick. While Top Gun: Maverick is (thankfully) not realistic, the sequel needed to make a few concessions to common sense regarding its production process. As a result, depicting an aircraft that had no place in its setting would not have worked in terms of the movie’s story, while on a more practical filmmaking level, the psychical limitations of the F-22’s design would also have posed a unique problem for the creators of Top Gun: Maverick.

Related: Tarantino Is Right About Top Gun: Maverick

The F-22 Is Used By The U.S. Air Force, Not The Navy

Top Gun impact on US Navy Recruiting in real life

Top Gun and its sequel are set in the Navy. However, the F-22 is used by the Air Force, an entirely separate institution. As such, it would have made no sense for Maverick to pilot an F-22 of the aircraft in Top Gun: Maverick. Furthermore, while the original Top Gun’s fictional MiG-28 enemy aircraft proves that the franchise wasn’t averse to twisting reality, the F-22 posed another, more practical problem. It is a single-seat aircraft, meaning the creators of Top Gun: Maverick wouldn’t have been able to film inside a real-life Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

The F-22 Has The Same Problem As The F-35 For Maverick

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick

The most effective action sequences in both Top Gun movies take advantage of the opportunity to film inside aircraft, giving viewers a front-row seat to some spectacular aerial acrobatics. This would be impossible in an F-22 since directors can’t film inside the plane. As a result, there was no way that the F-22 could have appeared in Top Gun: Maverick. The fact that Maverick’s risky maneuvers, like his test run, never resulted in his discharge means that Top Gun: Maverick does bend the rules of the real-life Navy a lot, but depicting the U.S. Air Force’s signature aircraft would have been egregiously inaccurate.

Furthermore, while realism was not a significant concern for the movie’s creators, the logistics of shooting Top Gun: Maverick was. Since the F-22 doesn’t allow the filmmaker enough room to obtain usable footage, the phenomenally costly aircraft would have been a wasted investment for Top Gun: Maverick’s production. In addition, to get up close and personal with the actors, Top Gun: Maverick’s production needed two-seater planes. The franchise’s recurring theme of brotherhood and friendship would be ill-served by the heroes piloting their planes solo. As a result, on Top Gun: Maverick’s practical and thematic levels, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was a bad fit for the Top Gun sequel.

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