Cool your jets, get a head in the clouds
THE first impression of Real Top Guns is that it could well have been named the Over- the- Top Guns. A blokey Aussie voice- over, theatrical music and dramatic graphics make it seem more like a Department of Defence recruitment pitch than an SBS documentary.
A somewhat hyperbolic introduction notes that our F/ A- 18 pilots are ‘‘ at the front line in defence of the nation, flying some of the most awesome and lethal aircraft ever built’’.
With supersonic jets and space- age weapons, combat pilots are the first and last word in aerial protection.
‘‘ But away from all the hardware, the discipline and camaraderie, fighter pilots are husbands, fathers and sons. At home or in the hot seat, they are real top guns.’’
After a Bex and a lie down, however, Real Top Guns settles down to offer an engrossing inside view of what is arguably Australia’s most important defence asset.
The series was shot with six squadrons over six months and its makers were given unprecedented access to the RAAF’s elite combat pilots and their aircraft. This included getting high- definition cameras into cockpits to record some impressive aerial footage.
Episode one is basically a scenesetter that introduces us to some of the pilots.
The main action comes from 77 Squadron as it flies an aerobatic cap over the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the 2006 Commonwealth Games. They are there to shoot down any terrorist aircraft that may approach the venue.
There is a moment of tension as an off- course civilian jet heads toward the MCG before veering off, and another as 24- year- old pilot Beau Pitcher, flying for the first time fully armed, attempts a midair refuelling at night.
At RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory, 22- year- old Kartik ‘‘ Tik’’ Maharaj is getting married in a Hindu ceremony before heading off to Malaysia for war games with 75 Squadron. His aircraft has problems taxiing and there are doubts it will be able to go. Problems also emerge with a Boeing 707 tanker that is supposed to transport personnel and the massive store of equipment needed to support the fighters.
Apart from some jargon- filled conversations between pilots and the ground, the series is pitched simplest level and for the consumption.
Its strength is not so much the hardware, although everybody likes cool shots of fighter planes in action, but the insight the program gives into the men and women flying and supporting the aircraft.
Some of them may be young but it’s nice to know that those at the military coalface are so cool, competent and well trained.
And yes, they do have the best job in the world. at the widest
Marriage first, fly later: One of 75 Squadron’s pilots, Kartik Maharaj