When American fighter jets were being downed at an unprecedented rate during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy turned to a young lieutenant commander, Dan Pedersen, to figure out a way to reverse their dark fortune. On a shoestring budget and with little support, Pedersen picked eight of the finest pilots to help train a new generation to bend jets like the F-4 Phantom to their will and learn how to dogfight all over again.
What resulted was nothing short of a revolution -- one that took young American pilots from the crucible of combat training in the California desert to the blistering skies of Vietnam, in the process raising America's Navy combat kill ratio from two enemy planes downed for every American plane lost to more than 22 to 1. Topgun emerged not only as an icon of America's military dominance immortalized by Hollywood but as a vital institution that would shape the nation's military strategy for generations to come.
Pedersen takes readers on a colorful and thrilling ride -- from Miramar to Area 51 to the decks of aircraft carriers in war and peace-through a historic moment in air warfare. He helped establish a legacy that was built by him and his "Original Eight" -- the best of the best -- and carried on for six decades by some of America's greatest leaders. Topgun is a heartfelt and personal testimony to patriotism, sacrifice, and American innovation and daring.
About the Author
Dan Pedersen entered the U.S. Navy in 1953. He was the senior officer in the group of nine men who formed the Navy's legendary "Topgun" program at Naval Air Station Miramar in March 1969. He served in combat during the Vietnam War, with a flying cruise on USS Hancock (CVA-19) and three on USS Enterprise (CVN-65). He retired as a captain, having accumulated 6,100 flight hours and 1,005 carrier landings while flying 39 types of aircraft. He lives with his wife outside San Diego.
"If an institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man, then
the history of modern naval aviation might well be described as the lengthened
shadow of Dan Pedersen. Here, in direct, vivid, and unvarnished prose, is the
high-flying, supersonic tale of the Topgun program and its extraordinary
founder. Through it all, Pedersen's innovative spirit, as well as his essential
modesty, shines through."—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author Ghost Soldiers and On Desperate Ground
"If you loved the movie, you will love the real
story in the book."—Pete Hegseth, Fox & Friends
"Goose and Maverick, move
over -- this is the true heart of Topgun, told
with energy, style, humor, and tactical brilliance...a masterpiece that
captures the essence of naval aviation in all its complexity and
beauty. Dan Pedersen takes us on a high-speed jet ride through the fast
times of Topgun, the Navy, and the need to fight our enemies from a position of
superiority."—Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (2009-2013), chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute, and author of Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans
"With the hot-seat
velocity and cockpit realism of a military combat thriller, the author delivers
exacting details and emotional acuity....A noble,
thrillingly realized combat aviation memoir from one of America's finest."—Kirkus Reviews
superb read...Dan Pedersen's Topgun is a riveting,
seat-of-the-pants flight into the lethal world of the fighter
pilot told by the man who started it all!"
—Dan Hampton, New York Times bestselling author of Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky
"[A] fast-paced memoir...This remembrance of aerial derring-do is sure to
appeal to military aviators and fans of the world of fighter pilots, past and
"Teeming with white-knuckled action and the dynamic personalities
who would come to define a generation of combat pilots, Topgun brings
the deadly dance of air warfare alive."—Dick Couch, New York Times bestselling author of The Warrior Elite and Chosen Soldier
"An exciting and well-written journey through
more than five decades of naval and air-combat history and the service to which
Pedersen devoted most of his life."—Booklist
"Forget the movie...This book soars...[A] remarkable inside story of how [Pedersen] and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat."—Military Press
those who will never experience the thrilling privilege of soaring at Mach 2 in
the back seat of a Navy F-4 Phantom fighter, Dan Pedersen's superb memoir is
the next best thing....Many aviators-turned-authors lose readers in jargon and
procedures, but Pedersen's full-hearted personal narrative engages them with
maverick charm, showing how he and his innovative team reinvented the art of
air-to-air combat in the jet age. Topgun:
An American Story is as revelatory as a freshly declassified briefing,
written with the flair and insight of Tom Clancy."—Michael Fabey, author of Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific
"A powerful insider's account of an important and uniquely American institution."
—The Naval Historical Foundation