How ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ got cameras inside the cockpit of a F/A-18 fighter jet

Top Gun Maverick
  • Promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the November 2021 release date approaches.
  • In a recent interview, director Joseph Kosinski described how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The long-delayed sequel to “Top Gun” is slated for November 2021, and promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the release date approaches.

Paramount Pictures partnered with the YouTube show “Could You Survive the Movies?” for an interview with director Joseph Kosinski about how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.

The new clip is an addition to the “Could You Survive the Movies?” episode that explores the science behind the original 1986 movie. Series host Jake Roper joined Kosinski for the conversation highlighted in the new clip.

Kosinski reveals that he studied to be an aerospace engineer before getting into the filmmaking game. That makes sense because the director behind sci-fi movies such as “TRON: Legacy” and “Oblivion” always has shown a bent for cutting-edge movie technology.

To help the actors get their performances right, the crew built a replica of an F-18 Super Hornet cockpit on the ground, and Kosinski rehearsed each scene with the actors before they did the actual scene inside a jet screaming across the sky.

Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet
An F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Since the team was inventing new ways to film airborne action, the process could be incredibly slow.

“Some days, we’d work a 16-hour day and get 40 seconds of footage; 25 cameras running simultaneous,” Kosinski reveals to Roper in the clip.

The big reveal in the interview is that cinematographer Claudio Miranda worked with Sony to develop a new camera system called the Rialto, which is an add-on to Sony’s popular Venice 6k camera. Kosinski says they captured the footage using six Rialtos on each plane, with four cameras facing the actor and two cameras facing forward.

The images featured in the video suggest a kind of hybrid setup, because it looks like at least two Venice units are included in the four-camera array that’s facing the actors. The Venices are definitely too large to be connected to the front-facing cameras.

The Rialto comes with a 9-foot cable that allows it to connect to a Venice unit, so it looks like the filmmakers figured out places to stash the Venice units around the plane.

Even though the photos make the Venice look like a monster piece of gear, the unit weighs only 8.6 pounds and the Rialto extension units weigh 3-4 pounds. To anyone who lugged around digital cameras when they first arrived on the market, this will seem like impossible news. Welcome to the future.

You can play with this tech yourself if you’ve got the cash or qualify for Sony’s interest-free financing. A Venice body retails for $42,000, and a Rialto starts around $12K. Then you need lenses and all the other rigging. You can get started for around $65,000, but $100K would give you a ton of options.

You can watch the entire interview for yourself below.

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To fill a fighter-jet gap, the US Navy is about to get some of the Air Force’s F-16s

Air Force F-16 fighter jet
An F-16C Fighting Falcon at RAF Lakenheath in England, August 3, 2018.

  • The US Navy’s will receive F-16s from the Air Force to fill a gap as the Navy retires older F/A-18s.
  • The Navy will shelve some 55 aircraft over the next year, and to make sure it has enough fighters available, it expects the Air Force to give it F-16s.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Navy is preparing to receive F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the Air Force as it moves to rid its inventory of legacy F/A-18 Hornet models used in its Reserve fleets, according to its fiscal 2022 budget request.

The Navy will shelve roughly 55 aircraft over the next year, the documents state, in hopes of transitioning to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. But to make sure it has enough fighters available amid the conversion, it expects the Air Force to transfer some F-16s to it.

“This divestment reduces long-term support cost of older [Hornets] while retaining adversary capacity,” the documents state, but do not specify the number of F-16s needed. Seapower Magazine reported earlier this month the F-16s could come from Air National Guard units.

The Drive reported the F-16s will be used for aggressor training, or to act as enemy forces in air-to-air training.

The service is moving to reduce its fighter force and focus on the Super Hornet; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and the F/A-18 follow-on aircraft, currently known as the F/A-XX, which defies traditional categorization as a single aircraft platform or technology – potentially using a fighter flying alongside artificial intelligence-enhanced drones.

The service is weighing whether the F/A-XX will be manned, unmanned or partially autonomous, Navy officials have said.

F/A-18E Super Hornets
F/A-18E Super Hornets.

The Navy has accepted F-16s before, with 26 special F-16N versions – 22 single-seat and four two-seater aircraft – used between 1988 and 1998 for aggressor training.

Following the retirement of the N models, the service acquired 14 F-16s originally slated for the Pakistani air force in the early 2000s, which it currently uses at its “Topgun” school at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

Air Force officials have said the F-16 still has a place in its fleet for now, even as it reduces the number of types of fighter jets and attack aircraft it keeps.

“The newer block [F-16s] that have been upgraded are going to fly for some time,” said Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements.

The Air Force will weigh what types of roles or mission sets make sense for the F-16 as a multirole fighter – including homeland defense – and whether the newer aircraft can be upgraded down the line, Hinote said in an interview with Military.com earlier this month.

Air Force Magazine reported that the service will introduce a program known as Multirole Fighter-X, or MR-X, later this decade. It is expected to join the service’s inventory in the mid-2030s, according to the magazine.

US Air Force F-16
A US Air Force F-16.

Hinote said it’s possible F-16s could fill the MR-X role. But if upgrades are too extensive or too costly, the next MR-X could be a “clean sheet” fighter design.

“That would be a digitally designed new type of fighter affordable mainly for missions where survivability is not the most important concern,” he said, referring to homeland defense over a near-peer conflict.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said he’s open to something beyond the F-16 for the future multirole jet.

“Let’s not just buy off the shelf; let’s actually take a look at something else out there that we can build,” Brown said during a Defense Writers Group virtual chat with reporters in February.

Like Hinote, Brown said that the service wants something that can be economically sustainable, digitally designed, produced quickly and has an open-architecture software system that can be rapidly modified to keep up with missions.

“I want to be able to build something new and different that’s not the F-16, that has some of those capabilities, but gets there faster and features a digital approach,” he said in February.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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‘A flying Tic Tac wasn’t part of our plan’: Former US Navy fighter pilot describes encounter with UFO

F/A-18E Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136 “Knighthawks” fly in formation during a photo exercise over California.
F/A-18E Super Hornets in formation over California.

  • Over the years, there have been a number of incidents in which US pilots reported seeing UFOs.
  • A former Navy pilot talked to Insider about her experience with an “unidentified aerial phenomenon.”
  • She was one of two F/A-18 pilots who observed the mystery object, nicknamed the “Tic Tac,” in 2004.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A former US Navy fighter pilot recently shared details and some of her thoughts on an unusual experience almost two decades ago, an encounter with an unidentified flying object nicknamed the “Tic Tac.”

In mid-November 2004, as the Navy’s Nimitz Carrier Strike Group trained off the West Coast in preparation for an upcoming deployment, the destroyer USS Princeton detected several UFOs, also called anomalous aerial vehicles or unidentified aerial phenomena, moving in inexplicable ways around the carrier group.

On Nov. 14, 2004, after again detecting one of the anomalies, the destroyer tasked two F/A-18 Super Hornets to take a look around the area where it had been detected. The fighters were flown by Dave Fravor, then a squadron commander, and Alex Dietrich, then a lieutenant junior grade.

Once they arrived in the area, the pilots got a visual on a mysterious object, which was reported to be “an elongated egg or a ‘Tic Tac’ shape” that was “solid white, smooth, with no edges,” and “uniformly colored with no nacelles, pylons, or wings,” according to a military report on the event obtained a few years ago by a CBS News affiliate.

During a recent “60 Minutes” interview, Fravor recalled seeing “this little white Tic Tac-looking object” moving above the water with, as Dietrich noted, “no predictable movement” and “no predictable trajectory.”

Not ‘part of our plan’

Alex Dietrich
Alex Dietrich.

“This didn’t fit our script,” Dietrich, who retired as a lieutenant commander, told Insider, explaining that the carrier group and the accompanying air wing were training for a deployment to the Middle East, where they might be called upon to provide precision strikes, convoy oversight, and air support, among various other missions and tasks.

“A flying Tic Tac wasn’t part of our plan,” she said, recalling their encounter with the object.

In the recent “60 Minutes” interview, Dietrich described the experience as “unsettling.” Neither aircraft was armed at the time, and she said she “felt the vulnerability of not having anything to defend ourselves.”

Talking with Insider, the former naval aviator said that it was not entirely clear how she or her commander were expected to react and respond to the mystery object, which they were not expecting to encounter.

“We do air-to-air scenarios where we expect to encounter adversary aircraft, and we have set plans for how we approach them,” Dietrich explained. “But these assume that it is a generation of fighter we would be at least familiar enough with.”

She said that at that time, she “had not been briefed on any protocol for intercepting or merging with a UAP.”

During the encounter, Dietrich remained overhead as Fravor moved in to investigate. As the commander got closer to the unidentified object, which Fravor said was about the size of his plane, it suddenly accelerated and disappeared. A different Navy flight later caught the object on infrared video.

The US military officially declassified that video last year, along with a couple of others from different incidents, and noted in a statement that the phenomena seen in these videos are still “unidentified.” The following video is from the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident.

‘We don’t know what it was’

Dietrich recalled that she experienced a “roller coaster of emotions” during the 2004 incident, with feelings running from excited to nervous. She said that her primary concern was figuring out whether it was an adversary, some sort of threat, or a even just a flight safety issue. They didn’t figure that out, and it is still not clear what it was.

Over the years, there has been a lot of speculation about this incident and others, but Dietrich told Insider that she did not let her mind “run away with wild conclusions or fantasies about what it might be.”

“I gave my report, and I went on with my life and my career,” she said, acknowledging that she has not followed this matter closely in the years since.

Dietrich revealed that at the time of the incident she was a little “disappointed” by the lack of response.

“If I had been in charge of the carrier strike group and had heard this report, I probably would have redirected assets. We had all of these aircraft and sensors and radar to collect information in that moment,” she said, adding that she is not sure “why the decision was made not to pivot in that moment and redirect focus.”

Fravor and Dietrich told “60 Minutes” that while they were debriefed, they were not aware of any further investigation into what happened that day in 2004.

“We don’t know what it was, but it was there. We saw it, and it is worth investigating further,” Dietrich told Insider.

Dietrich’s personal interest in this issue has faded over time.

“It mattered to me on November 14, 2004,” she said. “It mattered very much because I was there face-to-face with it, and it could have been a threat … In the years and now decades since, it doesn’t matter as much to me.”

‘Not jumping to conclusions’

flir gimbal gofast pentagon releases ufo videos
Left to right, still images from FLIR, GIMBAL, and GOFAST videos of unidentified aerial phenomena released by the Pentagon.

Dietrich told Insider that by answering questions about her experiences, she hopes that if and when these incidents occur, and there have been a few, the military will “take a training time out” and “spend some resources investigating” to determine whether or not what is being observed is a danger. She also said she hopes to reduce the stigma around reporting these incidents.

This is potentially more likely given the military’s newfound interest in these incidents.

The Pentagon created the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program in 2007, but the program ended in 2012 as the military directed its attention to “higher priority issues,” a Pentagon spokesperson told CNN in 2017 after The New York Times dragged the program out of the shadows.

But last year, just a few months after the Pentagon declassified several videos of unexplained incidents, the Department of Defense publicly established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force “to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to US national security.”

Dietrich’s story is unusual but not necessarily unique. There have been a number of unexplained UFO sightings by US service members. One former naval aviator, retired Lt. Ryan Graves, told “60 Minutes” recently that there was a time when they saw them “every day for at least a couple of years.”

The US Navy, explaining new policies for reporting encounters with unidentified aircraft, told Politico in 2019 that “there have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years.”

These sightings have raised a lot of questions and provided few real answers, but next month, the US intelligence community is expected to present an unclassified report on these “unidentified aerial phenomena.” It is not clear whether this report will shed light on what pilots and others have been seeing.

As for what the unexplained incidents involving the military might mean, Dietrich, a veteran pilot who flew over 200 combat missions during her career in the Navy, did not speculate. She said she would “urge patience and not jumping to conclusions.”

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