The Top Gun Navy Flight School began with prayer. Founder Dan Pedersen says he asked God for discernment when it came time to preparing for the opening of one of the most elite fighter pilot training programs in the world. The training academy that has taught the top 1% of U.S. Navy pilots how to survive and win dogfights since March 1969, now celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The Top Gun program gained popularity in 1986 in the movie, “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise. Since that time, Top Gun has become associated with top notch pilots and wild rides. But it had a less glamorous beginning.
During the Vietnam war, Navy fighter pilots were being downed by the less technical Vietnamese-piloted MiGs at a ratio of 2:1. For every two MiGs shot down, one Navy jet went down—an unacceptable number. The Navy conducted what is known as the Ault Report from 1965-1968 to discover why this was happening. The report revealed that, although the Vietnamese MiG pilots were using outdated aircraft, they were pushing them to the limits in their maneuvers. Among the solutions proposed by the report, was that the Navy establish a training program to teach pilots the art of aerial combat.
Dan Pedersen began to fly for the Navy in 1956. In 1969, after the report was published, he was a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Miramar, California. He was the right man at the right time for the job. The Navy gave him 60 days to come up with the program.
He had the wisdom and foresight to ask God for the discernment in putting it all together. He then chose eight of the top pilots at Miramar, brought them to the school and made them instructors. They are called the “Original Bros”, and they worked for 60 consecutive days putting the training program together. Pedersen acknowledges a Divine hand in the formation of the school, saying God was his co-pilot.
Three years after the program began, the pilot kill ratio went from 2:1 to nearly 12:1. The Top Gun pilot training program was a huge success that increased the ratio 600%. CBN News reports, “the Navy credits the Ault Report and what’s become known as the Top Gun school, for the dramatic improvement in air-to-air combat performance.”
It is interesting to note that a man acknowledged his need. He then asked God for understanding and ended up putting together one of the premier combat pilot training centers around. Glory to God!