The Pentagon Goes Hollywood

Filmmakers and the military enjoy a profitable partnership

The Tom Cruise film Top Gun, about U.S. Navy pilots training to be "the best of the best," had all the ingredients for a hit: a brash beefcake hero and a gorgeous, throaty-voiced heroine (Kelly McGillis), a pop-music sound track and MTV-style visual pyrotechnics. But the truly impressive stars of the film are its sleek, roaring fighter jets. Featured in thrilling aerial sequences, they make modern-day dogfights seem like the ultimate video game.

The high-flying hardware turns Top Gun into a 110-minute commercial for the Navy -- and it was the Navy's cooperation that put the planes in the picture. The...

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