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Navy Fighter Weapons School

Navy Fighter Weapons School - "TOP GUN"

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Patch
  • NFWS and TOP GUN

Handle
  • TOP GUN

Heritage
  • ABOUT TOP GUN
    Sometimes confused with the VF-126 Fighting Seahawks / Bandits. NFWS (TOP GUN) and VF-126 are two different entities.

    Navy Attack Squadron 126 (VA-126) was established 1958 with the Grumman TF-9 Cougar for fleet instrument training. When the Skyhawk was being replaced as the fleet attack aircraft in 1967, "126", now VF-126, was already providing aircraft for aggressor training. The Skyhawk was chosen as the bandit aircraft because of its small size, maneuverability and smokeless trail, similiar to a MiG-17. VF-126 started providing the adversary mission from Miramar in April 1967. VF-126 continued the bandit mission until they were disestablished in April 1994.

    The Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN) was originally established as a "school" within VF-121, a F-4 Phantom Replacement Air Group (RAG) at NAS Miramar. NFWS was tasked with providing graduate level Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) training and utilized VF-126 A-4 assests for the aggressor role. The first class started 03 MAR 1969.
    NFWS evolved in January 1972 into a separate VF-121 detachment, continuing to use VF-126 A-4’s and maintenance support personnel.
    The NFWS instructors flew the A-4’s, and each crew going through as students brought with them their own squadron maintenance personnel and own squadron aircraft.
    In July 1972 NFWS was given full squadron status as the Naval Fighter Weapons School. NFWS handled the graduate courses for Navy pilots, while VF-126 continued as the "day to day" adversary unit, supporting the F-4's & F-14's at Miramar.
  • 03 MAR 1969: VF-121, a F-4 RAG unit starts first NFWS class.
  • JAN 1972: NFWS becomes a separate detachment of VF-126.
  • 07 JUL 1972: NFWS awarded status as a separate squadron.
  • 1996: NFWS is integrated into the NSAWC (Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center) at NAS Fallon.

Home Ports
  • 1969: NAS Miramar
  • 1996: NAS Fallon (Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center)

Air Wings
  • 1961: VF-121 is Tail Code NJ

Deployments
  • None

Aircraft
Commanding Officers
  • JAN 1972: CDR Roger Box (OINC)

Events
  • DEC 1960: VF-121 receives F-4A Phantom II for training fleet replacement pilots. Original these Phantoms was designated F4H-1, then F4H-1F, and finally the F-4A.

  • 1961: VF-121 receives the F-4B Phantom II.

  • 03 MAR 1969: VF-121, the existing F-4 RAG (Replacement Air Group) stationed at NAS Mirmar begins to instruct pilots in Dissimiliar Air Combat Maneuvering. Initial aircraft included the A-4 Skyhawk to replicate the MiG-17 and borrowed T-38 Talons to replicate the MiG-21. Later the F-5 replaced the T-38.

  • February 17, 1976
    An unidentified A-4 pilot ejected safely after a mid-air collision near Yuma between his A-4E BuNo 150009 and a VMFA-251 F-4J Phantom (DW-13) from MCAS Beaufort. The Phantom's RIO ejected safely but the unidentified pilot was killed.
    US Armed Forces Stars and Stripes article

  • March 27, 1978
    Lt. Evan Martin Chanik ejected safely before his A-4E BuNo 152010 crashed into the Pacific Ocean 80 kilometers west of San Diego near San Clemente Island.
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Winnipeg Free Press article
    US Armed Forces The Stars and Stripes article

  • 197x - 8x: F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets become the primary fleet aircraft but NWFS Instructors retain the A-4s and F-5s. The USAF F-16 is added to simulate the MiG-29 and Su-27. The F-16s were ultimately grounded due to flight related stress cracks.

  • December 1, 1989:
    Lcdr. Stanley R. O'Connor, Top Gun flight instructor, was approaching Miramar after a routine flight in A-4F BuNo 152101 when he radioed the air traffic control tower that the single-seat attack jet was losing power. O'Connor ejected and his aircraft crashed shortly after 10 a.m., six miles east of Miramar's runways.

  • 199x: Instruction now includes air-to-ground strike, and the A-4s and F-5s are retired in favor of F-14 and F/A-18 aircraft.

  • October 28, 1992:
    An unidentified pilot ejected safely when his A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 160034 crashed on the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range about 45 miles NE of Yuma while on a training mission.
    Tucson AZ, Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, October 29, 1992.

  • 1996: Due to the transfer of NAS Miramar to the Marines, NFWS moves to NAS Fallon and is integrated into the NSAWC (Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center). This consolidation includes NFWS, the Naval Strike Warfare Center and the Carrier Airborne Eary Warning Weapons School.

Awards
  • No info yet.

Photos



BuNo 149656, #2, parked on the ramp in a tan/brown/green camouflage scheme Oct. 1970.
Gary Verver Collection.

24 Oct 1970 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149990, #4, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149990, #4, and BuNo 150090 as #5 in-flight.
Provided by Pawel Mankowski

TOP GUN/Fighter Weapons School Aggressor A-4E Skyhawks BuNo 149656 (#2) and BuNo 149990 (#4).
Don't have a date for the photo, but looks early 70's.
TOP GUN paint schemes don't appear to be color fast as enough has washed off of #2 to expose the star & bars underneath.
BuNo.149656 is currently on display in the entrance of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola.
Gary Verver Collection.

TOP GUN Aggressor Skyhawk BuNo.149656 parked on the ramp at an open house.
Gary Verver Collection.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149964, #1, parked on the ramp, early 70s. Gary Verver Collection.

Circa 1970: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149971 , #3, assigned to LT Gary "Spieder" Cadwell parked on the ramp.
Unknown Photographer via W. Mutza

BuNo.149990 Aug 1971.
Gary Verver Collection.

Oct 1972 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #2, assigned to LCDR Jerry "Ski" Sawatzky parked on the ramp.
Photo by T.R. Waddington, Gary Verver Collection.

MARINE A-4E SKYHAWK BuNo. 150023 WITH NFWS
A-4E BuNo. 150023 side number 56, while it was deployed to Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN) on the ramp at Naval Air Station Miramar, near San Diego, California. On the other side of the hanger in the background, is where VF-126 parked its Skyhawks. Naval Fighter Weapons School (NFWS) handled the graduate courses for Navy pilots, while VF-126 was more of a "day to day" adversary unit, supporting the F-4's & F-14's at Miramar.
The reason #56 is lettered for the USMC, is that TOP GUN often had USMC, and even the occasional USAF pilot as course instructors, and this was their way of acknowledging the USMC pilots contribution. In this shot of #56, there's a tan & brown F-5E in the background. Its #45, and like #56, was lettered for the USMC from the early stages.
From a photograph by Fred Krause.

NFWS A-4E SKYHAWK
BuNO.150073, NWFS A-4E side number 31, bears an adversary camouflage scheme of alternating bands of dark green and desert sand.
Picture from Harry S. Gann.

14 Oct 1973 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149971, #633, assigned to LT Gary Crowell parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection.

BuNo 150009, #24, parked on the ramp in a brown/tan/green camouflage scheme Oct. 1974.
Gary Verver Collection.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 150009, #24, assigned to CAPT Richard parked on the ramp painted in a tan/brown/green camouflage scheme.
W. Munzenmaier

05 OCT 1974: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 150009, #24, assigned to CAPT Reitsch parked on the ramp and painted in a tan/brown/green camouflage scheme.
Dave Steinbacker

05 Oct 1975 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 150009, #24, assigned to CAPT Richard parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

JUN 1976:
Top Gun LT "Thunder" Taylor's A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 152010
, 555, in a three color blue camouflage scheme at Cannon AFB, NM.
Photographer unknown.

24 Sep 1977 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #2, assigned to LCDR Jerry "Ski" Sawatzky parked on the ramp.
Photo from G.B. Rhodes.

24 Sep 1977 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #554, assigned to LT "Preacher" Pace parked on the ramp.
Photo from G.B. Rhodes.

15 oct 1977 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 150023, #556, assigned to LT Hundell parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

"TOP GUN" (NFWS) A-4E BuNo 149656, #54, dated October 1978. Photo by P. Huston, G. Verver collection.

8-Nov-1979 China Lake Skyhawk BuNo 152101, TOP GUN BuNo 150044, #555, China Lake BuNo 154172 & China Lake BuNo 153677 parked on the Hot Line.
Navy Photo from Gary Verver.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 155000, #50, parked on the flightline.
Rob Mignard

AUG 1980: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #554, assigned to LT "Woody" Foerster parked on the ramp painted in a blue/gray camouflage scheme.
Rob Mignard

04 Oct 1980 BuNo 149656, #554, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

"TOP GUN" (NFWS) A-4E BuNo 149969, #53, USNFWS Nellis, dated 7 January 1981.
Photo by K. Svendsen, G. Verver collection.

30 JAN 1981: Top Gun Echo landing at Miramar.

15 August 1982 heavy fog covers the flight line as Navy Fighter Weapons School Skyhawk BuNo 150023, #56, is prepared for an early morning mission.
US Navy Photo by JOC K. Harrison.

NFWS 15 AUG 1982: Unknown NFWS Skyhawk on approach. Side number is 55.
Photo from JOC K. Harrison.

Date unknown: NFWS F-5 and A-4 in formation.
From Gary Verver.
1983: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149969 , #553, assigned to LT "Sundance" Davis parked on the ramp.
Unknown Photographer via W. Mutza

A-4F BuNo. 152101 - September 1984
A-4F BuNo. 152101, side number 53, from Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN) on NFWS' ramp at Naval Air Station Miramar, near San Diego, California, in September 1984.
From a photograph by Mike Shapiro.

TA-4J BuNo. 154327 - September 1984
TA-4J BuNo. 154327 from VF-45, while it was deployed to Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN) on the ramp at Naval Air Station Miramar, near San Diego, California, in September 1984.
From a photograph by Mike Shapiro.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo.151033, #52, on the flight line.
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Baranek.

Late 80s: 1988: Unknown NFWS Skyhawk, side number 14.
1987: Unknown NFWS Skyhawks, side numbers 21 and 23.
1989: Unknown NFWS Skyhawk, side number 50. From Texomajack.

10 OCT 1987: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #554, parked on the ramp painted in a green/brown camouflage scheme.
Jim Burridge

JUN 1988: Top Gun Skyhawk BuNo 152081, #57, and BuNo 150023, #556, parked on the ramp.
Dr. C.A. "Sketch" Eddy

JUL 1989: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 149656, #554, parked on the ramp painted in an all dark green scheme. Rob Mignard

JUL 1989: Top Gun Skyhawk BuNo 154209, #51, parked on the ramp and painted in a tan/brown/green camouflage scheme.
Rob Mignard

01 Mar 1990 BuNo 149656, #554, still in TOP GUN markings on display at the United States Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola.
U.S. Navy photo by Jim Bryant.

14 APR 1990:
right side view of Top Gun A-4F Skyhawk BuNo 155030
, #53, on the ramp at Williams AFB painted in an overall lo-vis gray scheme.
photo by B. R. Baker.

01 January 1991 four TOP GUN adversary aircraft from NAS Miramar, CA. Shown (L-R) is a USMC Skyhawk BuNo 155027, #52, a USN Skyhawk BuNo 155000, #50, a USN F-16N Fighting Falcon, and a USMC F-16N Fighting Falcon.
U.S. Navy Photo

VF-126 TOP GUN A-4F BuNo 155000, #50, 15 June 1991, Miramar.
Photo by Scott VanAken.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 151059, #32, in two tone brown camouflage with gray slats - Oct. 1991.
Gary Verver Collection.

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 152080, #62, painted a mottled green/brown camouflage scheme.
W. Munzenmaier

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154172, #54, assigned to LT Bill "Hack" McMasters parked on the line and painted in a green/gray camouflage scheme.
W. Munzenmaie

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154173, #53, assigned to LT Dave "Shooter" Vanderschoot. Plane Captain is AN Campbell.
W. Munzenmaier

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154209, #56, assigned to LT Tom "Trim" Downing parked on the ramp.
W. Munzenmaier

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154970, #55, assigned to LT John "Rooster" Clagett parked on the ramp. Plane Captain is AEAN Shaw.
W. Munzenmaier

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 155000, #50, assigned to LT Dave "Shooter" Vanderschoot parked on the ramp and painted in a tan/brown camouflage scheme. Plane Captain is ANSAN Garcia.
W. Munzenmaier

21 APR 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 155027, #52, as the gear comes up after take-off. Assigned pilot is LT "Willie" Williams. Plane Captain is LCPL Harman.
W. Munzenmaier

VF-126 TOP GUN A-4F BuNo 154209, #56, 02 May 1992, Miramar.
Photo by Scott VanAken.

VF-126 TOP GUN A-4F BuNo 155000, #50, 02 May 1992, Miramar.
Photo by Scott VanAken.

01 MAY 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 155000, #50, parked on the ramp in a brown/tan camouflage scheme.
U.S. Navy photo by LCDR Dave Parsons

01 MAY 1992: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 155000, #50, parked on the ramp in a brown/tan camouflage scheme.
U.S. Navy photo by LCDR Dave Parsons

27 Aug 1992 TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 160045 in formation with a TOP GUN F-16 Falcon.
Ted Paskowski, G. Verver collection.

A-4M BuNo 158171 TOP GUN #51, NAS Miramar, December 5, 1992.
Photo by Scott VanAken.

BuNo.150023 Nov 1994.
Official U.S. Navy by LT Baranek.

BuNo 149656, #554, on the ramp in a blue/gray camouflage scheme.
Gary Verver Collection.

BuNo 149656, #554, on the ramp in a blue/gray camouflage scheme.
Gary Verver Collection.

BuNo 150023, #556, parked on the ramp in a brown/tan camouflage scheme.
Gary Verver Collection.

BuNo 150044, #555, parked on the ramp in a mottled green camouflage scheme.
Gary Verver Collection.

TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 160045, #50, on final for touchdown.
J.D. Stewart

18 OCT 2002: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154204, #52, parked on the ramp.
W. Munzenmaier

Date unknown:
Top Gun BuNo 149656 at Miramar, pilots name on a/c is LCDR Martin (cant make out the callsign).
Photographer unknonw, from G. Verver

12 MAY 1974:

Pic1 - Top Gun BuNo 150023 at Offutt AFB. Name below the cockpit rail of 150023 is LT Raccoon Muller. Pic2
Pic3, NFWS BuNo 150023 and VT-22 BuNo 155112.
Pic4, NFWS BuNo 150023 and VT-22 BuNo 155112.
Pic5, NFWS BuNo 150023 and VT-22 BuNo 155112.
Pic6, Top Gun BuNo 150023 at Offutt AFB.
Photographer is A.R. Krieger, from G. Verver.

23 DEC 1991:
Top Gun A-4F BuNo 154172, NFWS-54, 23 DEC 1991 ay NAS Miramar. Name below the canopy is LT Jim "Grits" Grimson.
B. Trombecky photo, from Gary Verver Collection.

21 APR 1992:
Top Gun A-4F BuNo 155030, NFWS-51, 21 APR 1992 at NAS-Miramar. P/C name on the nose gear door is AN Valenzuela, name below the canopy is CAPT Cletus "Clete" Norris.
Photo from W. Munzenmaier, Verver Collection.

01 MAY 1975:
Top Gun A-4E BuNo 149656, NFWS-21, 01 MAY 1975 at NAS Miramar.
Photo by P. Bergagnini, Gary Verver Collection

15 AUG 1982:
Flight line fogged over for NFWS.
Official Navy, from Gary Verver.

SEPT 1983:
BuNo 152101, here identified as a NA-4F, serving with NFWS at NAS Miramar.
Stephen Miller

Circa 1985:
BuNo 151095, NFWS-55, in formation with VF-126 NJj-635.
From Phil Thompson

A-4M of NFWS.
Photo from J.D. Stewart.

15 OCT 1985:
Top Gun A-4E BuNo 151095, NFWS-55, 19 OCT 1985 at NAS Miramar.
Photo by B. Trombecky, Verver Collection.

09 MAR 1987:
Top Gun A-4E BuNo 149656, NFWS-54, 09 MAR 1987 at NAS Miramar.
Photo by B. Trombecky, Gary Verver Collection.

1 Jan 1988:
A plane captain climbs down the access ladder after assisting an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as "Top Gun," into the cockpit of his A-4 Skyhawk aircraft (VF-126 TA-4J, BuNo unknown, NJ-611). Photo by Flynn, from Gary Verver.

21 APR 1992:
BuNo 154172 at NAS Miramar.
W. Munzenmeir

21 APR 1992:
BuNo 154173 with NWFS. Name under the canopy is LT Dave Vaxbehschoot "Shooter", and the PC is AN Campbell from Colorado Springs CO.
W. Munzenmeir

21 APR 1992:
Top Gun TA-4F Skyhawk BuNo 152877
, NFWS 60, in a state of dis-repair on the ramp at NAS Miramar, CA.
Photographer unknown.

Date unknown:
Top Gun 160045. Name below the canopy is CAPT Arrett, call sign Badger.
From Werner Munzenmaier.

Date unknown:
NFWS BuNo 160045, side-number 50, with gear down.
Photo from JD Stewart

Date unknown:
Top Gun A-4M BuNo 158417, #54, date unknown.
Photo by J.D. Stewart from Verver collection.

12 MAR 1998:
Top Gun A-4E BuNo 151095, NFWS-55, 12 MAR 1988 at Miramar. Name below canopy is CDR Gaylor. Skyhawk at right is BuNo 150023.
Photo by B. Trombecky from G. Verver Collection.

07 MAY 1994:
Top Gun A-4M BuNo159475, #56, 07 MAY 1994 at Miramar.
Photo by C. Kaston from Verver collection.

18 OCT 2002: TOP GUN Skyhawk BuNo 154204, #52, parked on the ramp.
W. Munzenmaier


Sources
  • David A. Weber
  • John Chesire


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