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Top Gun Grounded March 2, 2023

Posted by geoff in News.

I loved Top Gun: Maverick – bought it and watched it twice so far. It might even motivate me to get a bigger TV. But a lot of people have questioned the realism of the movie, particularly the dogfights and aerial maneuvers.

But there is one thing that is more unrealisitic than any of that, and that is “How were those F-18s ready to fly at all?”

“Whut?” you ask, “I can see them sitting right there on the tarmac and deck in the movie, ready to go. What’s the problem?”

Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office, those F-18s are only ready to fly about 40% of the time, down from the 60% availability when they were introduced into service. (Chart copied from CBO report)

That’s like taking a third of the F-18s out of service permanently.

The older F-18s (the C/Ds) aged more slowly, which the Navy attributes to increased corrosion due to the increased use of “composite metals.” I’m not sure what a composite metal is – when you’re talking metals you usually refer to metal alloys and composites refer to fiber/filler materials such as graphite epoxy.

The F-18s were designed for a 6000 hour service life, which, at their typical usage of 30 hours/month, should have given them an almost 17 year lifetime. They’re currently being refurbished by Boeing to extend that lifetime to 7500 hours initially and then 10,000 hours.

Here’s hoping that gets the aircraft availability back up to 60% before the next movie.



1. vaitguy - March 2, 2023

It was a highly entertaining movie, easily as good or better that the original. ‘Specially for us old farts.

2. Jimbro - March 2, 2023

Makes you wonder how the B-52’s can continue to fly. The last variant, the B-52H was produced before I was born. I’m sure there has been a lot of upgrades and swapping out engines along the way but it’s been a fantastic run for the BUFF.

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