Which Aircraft Carrier Was Used In Top Gun: Maverick?

Fans of the 1985 blockbuster "Top Gun" were likely as apprehensive as they were thrilled by the announcement of its decades-in-the-making sequel. After all, so much time had passed since the original's debut, it seemed impossible a sequel could ever live up. While "Top Gun: Maverick" occasionally flew into the realm of unbelievable, it proved as thrilling and, perhaps, even more authentic than the original upon its debut. That latter fact was no doubt bolstered by the film's groundbreaking "shot-from-the-cockpit" approach, and the virtually unprecedented cooperation the United States Military granted the production.

Said cooperation included the film's creative team not only getting feedback from officials at the Pentagon, but also on-set guidance from active US Navy officers Captain JJ "Yank" Cummings and Commander Tim "Sparky" Charlebois. Access was granted by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works department to presumably outdated designs for the super secretive SR-72 stealth plane, and yes, the U.S. Navy allowed the "Top Gun: Maverick" production to shoot scenes aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, a $4.7 billion active duty aircraft carrier that, at the time of its 1988 launch was the largest carrier ever constructed by the U.S. Navy. Filming also took place on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which launched in 1984 and is a Nimitz-class carrier alongside the USS Abraham Lincoln.

According to reports, those high-octane "Top Gun: Maverick" scenes were filmed aboard the USS Lincoln off the coast of Virginia in the summer of 2018. It's unclear how many days the production was allowed to shoot aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Roosevelt, but if you've seen the film then you know that Tom Cruise and company made excellent use of both locations.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was not the first aircraft carrier to cameo in a Top Gun flick

The insider-level access granted to the "Top Gun: Maverick" production is hardly surprising, as the success of the original film reportedly provided a noticeable boost to US Navy enrollment. Given the sequel's focus on technologically advanced fighter jets, it's hardly surprising that a more modern aircraft carrier like the USS Abraham Lincoln was selected for filming, though it was not the first carrier to appear in a "Top Gun" film. Frankly, with the cavalcade of call-backs that occur throughout the sequel, it was surprising "Top Gun: Maverick" didn't at least wink at the carrier Pete Mitchell flew from in the original. 

That carrier was the USS Ranger, a 56,300 ton beast that launched in 1956. It would go on to see combat action in the Vietnam War and in Operation Desert Storm, doing so between cameos in Hollywood productions like 1985's "Top Gun" and 1986's "Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country." If you're wondering why the Ranger didn't return for a "Top Gun: Maverick" close-up, it's because the US Navy decommissioned the aircraft carrier in 1993. While the Ranger was reportedly kept in storage for nearly a decade, it was finally removed from the active Naval Vessel Register in 2004.

Attempts were made by two separate groups to try and preserve the carrier or even turn it into a floating museum, but both ultimately failed. In the end, the battle-tested and big screen famous USS Ranger was unceremoniously shipped off to a ship-breaking company in Brownsville, Texas to be disassembled and sold off for scrap.