NatGeo's 'Top Gun: The Next Generation' Will Go Behind the Scenes of Elite Naval Aviator Training

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(Paramount Pictures)

You won't see Maverick or Rooster in National Geographic's newest unscripted docuseries, "Top Gun: The Next Generation," but you will see real Navy aviation trainees trying to earn their wings in one of the most demanding flight training and selection programs in the world.

These would-be naval aviators won't be competing against each other, but they will be competing to fly the F-35C Lightning II, the world's most advanced fighter aircraft.

The new series comes in the wake of 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick" grossing more than $1.5 billion worldwide. In a press release, National Geographic says the production will get "unprecedented access" to the Navy's Advanced Flight Training Program and its elite cadre of students, following them during both training and their off-base home lives.

"The intimate access we have gained to the characters and the emotional character-led story arcs that run through the series will paint a vivid, compelling narrative around the young men and women embarking on this highly stressful process," Tanya Shaw, the managing director of Zinc Television, which is co-producing the series, said in a statement. "That narrative will elevate the series beyond the noise and spectacle of fighter jets to tell the tense, nuanced and poignant human stories behind the public-facing bravado. This is a unique project and we are thrilled to be bringing it to viewers."

But just because the character narratives are elevated beyond the spectacle of fighter jets, that doesn't mean there won't actually be a spectacle of fighter jets. This is still National Geographic, after all, and it's still a U.S. Navy-led "Top Gun" production, so we can expect to enjoy plenty of what the company calls "epic aerial sequences."

As with "Maverick," the newest high-speed look at naval aviation couldn't come at a better time for the service. The Navy missed all of its 2023 recruiting goals, including officer and reserve sailors, by more than 7,400 and subsequently raised its 2024 goals to make up for the loss. With this in mind, it makes sense to go back to the well that delivered a noticeable boost to Navy recruiting efforts after the original "Top Gun" film was released back in 1986.

Read: 'Top Gun' Boosted Recruiting and Brought the Tailhook Scandal. So What Happens After the Blockbuster Sequel?

"With so many millions of fans of the film around the world, I was immediately drawn to this series," Tom McDonald, executive vice president of global factual and unscripted content at Nat Geo, said of the "Top Gun" movie franchise in a press release. "These elite jet pilots are not only extremely accomplished and impressive, but all have very different stories to tell."

"Top Gun: the Next Generation" was only recently greenlit as a series, which means it's so new that the executives producing the show haven't yet realized how much naval aviators hate being called "jet pilots." Its premiere date will be announced in the future.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Facebook, X or on LinkedIn.

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