These Are the 6 Iconic Planes Featured in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB

There have been few sequels quite like Top Gun: Maverick. Despite the enormous success of the 1986 film, it took 36 years for a sequel to be made. Top Gun: Maverick has been an enormous success just like its predecessor. A large factor in that success is all of the incredible jets seen on screen. Below are all the amazing aircraft shown in the 2022 blockbuster.

P-51 Mustang

The iconic P-51 Mustang is the oldest plane in Maverick's collection
The iconic P-51 Mustang is the oldest plane in Maverick’s collection (Photo via Getty Images)

The P-51 Mustang was one of the first great American fighter planes of World War II. The aircraft was heavily used during the war and shot down more than 5,000 German fighters. The P-51 was also utilized during the Korean War, though as new planes were developed it was used more as a bomber during the conflict.

The plane is the oldest in Maverick’s collection. The P-51 was officially retired from the US military in 1957. The last time the aircraft flew in a mission was in the Dominican Republic in 1984.

F-14 Tomcat

Pete "Maverick" Mitchell flew F-14 Tomcats during 1986's Top Gun
Pete “Maverick” Mitchell flew F-14 Tomcats during 1986’s ‘Top Gun’ (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat had a long and impressive history in the United States Navy. The aircraft made its first deployment in 1974 and saw action in many operations throughout the 1970s and ’80s. During the Gulf War, the Tomcat was used in strike escort and reconnaissance missions.

The F-14 Tomcat obviously is special to both Maverick and fans of the 1986 film. Cruise’s character spent much of his time piloting one of these aircraft. Twenty years after the original movie was released, the F-14 was retired and replaced by more advanced aircraft. Still, the plane can also be seen in Top Gun: Maverick.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

An F-35 Lightning takes off at an Australian air show
An F-35 Lightning takes off at an Australian air show (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The F-35 Lightning II is one of the newest planes in the United States military. The Navy only began flying the aircraft in the year 2019. As a result, it has not seen much combat. The first aerial victory for the F-35 Lightning II came in 2021, for a pilot flying for the Israeli military. The aircraft will be around for a while as it is expected that American forces will use them until 2070.

Top Gun: Maverick does feature the F-35 Lightning, but they are not used extensively. Turns out there is a reason for that. The aircraft is only built to hold one pilot and much of the action in the Top Gun series features pilots flying as a team.

The Hypersonic ‘Darkstar’ Jet

The Darkstar jet in Top Gun: Maverick is based on the Lockheed Martin SR-71
The Darkstar jet in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is based on the Lockheed Martin SR-71 (Photo via Getty Images)

One of the reasons for Top Gun‘s enduring popularity is the film’s commitment to accuracy. As such, almost all of the planes used in the film are based on real aircraft. Top Gun: Maverick features the Darkstar jet, based on Lockheed Martin’s SR-71.

The aircraft is used to drive the narrative. Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is a test pilot tasked with flying the secret and expensive new plane. His efforts show that while Maverick may be a fair bit older, he still has the same rebellious streak.

While an aircraft as technologically advanced as the Darkstar has yet to be developed, one most likely isn’t that far behind. In fact, producer Jerry Bruckheimer claimed that the Chinese government took satellite photos of the plane, believing it was real.

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

The Boeing F/A 18F Super Hornet takes to the skies during a 2014 air show
The Boeing F/A 18F Super Hornet takes to the skies during a 2014 air show (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Super Hornet is one of the newer models featured in the 2022 film. The jet originally entered the service between 1999 and 2001. The still-active plane replace the F-14 Tomcat, which was the aircraft that Cruise’s Maverick piloted for much of the original film. While the F/A-18E/F is not as fast as the Tomcat, it is updated in a number of different ways.

In the movie, Maverick is tasked with training new pilots on the new aircraft. As a result, the jet is featured regularly in the film and the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F are part of the plot.

Sukhoi SU-57 Felon

The enemy pilots in Top Gun: Maverick fly Sukhoi SU-57s
The enemy pilots in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ fly Sukhoi SU-57s (Image via Anna Zvereva/Wikimedia Commons)

In the original Top Gun film, the Navy pilots flew against Russian-made MiG 28s. In the latest film, the enemies have upgraded to the Sukhoi SU-57 Felon. The fighter aircraft made its debut in 2020 and is used by the Russian Aerospace Forces.

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The identity of the adversary in Top Gun: Maverick is never revealed, but the Sukhoi SU-57 seems to be a good fit for them. The plane is more than capable of taking on the best fighters that the American forces have to offer.

Todd Neikirk

Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey-based politics, entertainment and history writer. His work has been featured in,, and He enjoys sports, politics, comic books, and anything that has to do with history.

When he is not sitting in front of a laptop, Todd enjoys soaking up everything the Jersey Shore has to offer with his wife, two sons and American Foxhound, Wally.