‘Fleet crews come to TOPGUN for a three-month course, which is split into four distinct parts,’ says LT Joe Rice, an elite TOPGUN instructor. ‘It starts with lectures, then moves into flights. This starts with the 1v1 BFM [Basic Fighter Maneuvers] phase — essentially it’s dogfighting — we prioritize the live flying. It’s about repetition, the more you fly the better you’ll be.’ From BFM the course moves into an air-to-surface phase, then Section Phase (working as a pair), then Division Phase (four-ship).’
LT Rice was talking to CAM editor Jamie Hunter during a visit to the school earlier this year for our exclusive supplement in our September issue.
TOPGUN follows a strict syllabus for each event. ‘The students typically fly each event three to four times,’ ‘he explains. ‘It’s normal for them not to pass first time, but this is about repetition, the more you fly the better you’ll be. They don’t typically fly much BFM in their Fleet squadrons, so they don’t get the razor focus that we do here. The students will fly more BFM in a two-week period here than they have done in the past year or two.’ The BFM portion is split into offensive, defensive, and high aspect and the students fly each of these four times at least. Due to the elevation above sea level at Fallon the course detaches away to Lemoore, Oceana or Miramar for the BFM phase.
With crews flying a lot of close air support in their fleet squadrons, TOPGUN is more about what they don’t do every day.
Read all about TOPGUN in our September issue, on sale now.