While it might seem surprising that the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor doesn’t appear in Top Gun: Maverick, there’s a solid justification for this.
While the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor might be the aircraft that many viewers expected to see in Top Gun: Maverick, the Top Gun sequel opted not to use this model for two reasons. Aeronautical engineering has come a long way since the 1980s. Like 1986’s original cult classic Top Gun, 2022’s long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick was given access to real-life military technology in exchange for the producers allowing the Department of Defense to shape how the Navy was depicted in the movie. As a result, viewers might reasonably have expected to see the cream of the institution’s weaponry on display.
However, although the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is arguably the most famous U.S. military aircraft, it would not have made sense for Maverick to fly one in Top Gun: Maverick. While Top Gun: Maverick is (thankfully) not realistic, the sequel needed to make a few concessions to common sense regarding its production process. As a result, depicting an aircraft that had no place in its setting would not have worked in terms of the movie’s story, while on a more practical filmmaking level, the psychical limitations of the F-22’s design would also have posed a unique problem for the creators of Top Gun: Maverick.
The F-22 Is Used By The U.S. Air Force, Not The Navy
Top Gun and its sequel are set in the Navy. However, the F-22 is used by the Air Force, an entirely separate institution. As such, it would have made no sense for Maverick to pilot an F-22 of the aircraft in Top Gun: Maverick. Furthermore, while the original Top Gun’s fictional MiG-28 enemy aircraft proves that the franchise wasn’t averse to twisting reality, the F-22 posed another, more practical problem. It is a single-seat aircraft, meaning the creators of Top Gun: Maverick wouldn’t have been able to film inside a real-life Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
The F-22 Has The Same Problem As The F-35 For Maverick
The most effective action sequences in both Top Gun movies take advantage of the opportunity to film inside aircraft, giving viewers a front-row seat to some spectacular aerial acrobatics. This would be impossible in an F-22 since directors can’t film inside the plane. As a result, there was no way that the F-22 could have appeared in Top Gun: Maverick. The fact that Maverick’s risky maneuvers, like his test run, never resulted in his discharge means that Top Gun: Maverick does bend the rules of the real-life Navy a lot, but depicting the U.S. Air Force’s signature aircraft would have been egregiously inaccurate.
Furthermore, while realism was not a significant concern for the movie’s creators, the logistics of shooting Top Gun: Maverick was. Since the F-22 doesn’t allow the filmmaker enough room to obtain usable footage, the phenomenally costly aircraft would have been a wasted investment for Top Gun: Maverick’s production. In addition, to get up close and personal with the actors, Top Gun: Maverick’s production needed two-seater planes. The franchise’s recurring theme of brotherhood and friendship would be ill-served by the heroes piloting their planes solo. As a result, on Top Gun: Maverick’s practical and thematic levels, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was a bad fit for the Top Gun sequel.