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In Top Gun: Maverick (2022), the pilots are training to match the terrain they will get at the place where the plant is located. The path they must take closely follows the canyon they need to fly through that ends with a pit (and a bunked in its center).

Since they are training at a US base, their flight path is digitalized and they must fly along it very closely to recreate it once they are live with the attack.

We can see that the dive into the pit where the bunker is located as well as the exit happens above a flat desert. In contrast, the slalom inside the canyon is performed inside an actual canyon.

How can it be that the canyon they are training in exactly matches the one at the target location?

I can understand if they were doing all the maneuvers above a generic ground and the view was projected on their helmets (so that they have a sense of what is going to happen) but the flight in the canyon is in a real one.

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  • Not sure what you are asking here. Perhaps it's the way you worded the question but I'm confused as to what is meant.
    – Paulie_D
    Jun 9, 2023 at 17:50
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    Think theyre asking how terrain in practice matches actual target location? Usually intelligence provides that kind of information. Regards the movie not sure, havent seen it. Might be 'movie magic'! Jun 9, 2023 at 18:55
  • @Paulie_D: I tried to clarify the question, better now?
    – WoJ
    Jun 9, 2023 at 18:56
  • @blobbymcblobby this is indeed what I attempted to ask for. As for the path, it was indeed provided by intelligence and was very accurate, otherwise they could not have trained (the canyon is quite complex, and mastering the path was the core of the training)
    – WoJ
    Jun 9, 2023 at 19:00
  • @WoJ - these days, with modern technology, you can often get a detailed terrain map of the target location. Quite often this is used with terrain following/mapping/guidance and gps type tech - and is used in weapons such as cruise missiles in matching the actual terrain and waypoints to the ones prepared for them in their programming. I have no doubt that same kind of information can be used in preparing for manned missions too. - ah, just saw your added comment - yes! modern marvels! Jun 9, 2023 at 19:07

3 Answers 3

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While it's true that the training route is also in a canyon, I don't think that we are supposed to believe that it matches the route exactly.

For example, the "hairpin turn" that causes Coyote to breach the mission ceiling and Payback to "crash" into the canyon wall does not appear to be there in the real footage.

Likewise, when Maverick begins his run, we see first this shot of the simulation: The F-18 entering to the canyon

We then watch the clock for several seconds and then see this shot: Maverick flying over flat terrain

So it would appear that the significant walls at the entry of the canyon aren't there on the training course.

Combined with the complete lack of mountains around the target, I think we are intended to believe that the walls they are flying through in the training sequence are outside of the simulated walls of the mission. (ie, it's a canyon, but bigger and/or flatter than the one they will actually be flying through)

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Just an addition in case the comments disappear:

As Woj has posted:

you fly around and your nav system simulates the canyon

This is why the terrain matches the real target - but not in real life - it matches it on his MFD (multifunctionaldisplay) (NAV)- which is switched to moving map display with route and waypoints on it (NAV system simulating the canyon), and the screen in the class room following him.

What the camera shows outside the cockpit is more for entertainment and Mavericks situational awareness.

From comments:

with modern technology, you can often get a detailed terrain map of the target location. Quite often this is used with terrain following/mapping/guidance and gps type tech - and is used in weapons such as cruise missiles in matching the actual terrain and waypoints to the ones prepared for them in their programming. I have no doubt that same kind of information can be used in preparing for manned missions too.

"LVC – live, virtual and constructive. The live aspect is the military members actually flying in their operational airplanes, driving in their operational truck or vehicle on the ground, remotely piloted aircraft – they’re using their operational equipment. But we’re able to tie that to a virtual environment which is a simulation of that operational equipment. And the constructive environment which is computer generated models and entities that allow us to create realistic threats, realistic bad guys and behaviors that our folks can actually go after.”

the data is generated from intel yes, then looks like Tom has a predefined route planned that matches with the CGI intel terrain map shown in the class room. His actual flight path - that he is flying - is not in the same terrain in real life as seen in the intel CGI map - you can see that when he gets on target, drops his munitions and then goes for his high-G pull out - in the class it is there, in real life he is just flying no mountains around him.

the pit is generated from intel data, fed into Toms MFD (multifunctional display) and has a moving map read-out - the map moves with you as you fly. So Tom isnt flying so much with his eyes but using that intel instead, matching his route with that of the intel, not the real life world around him (within reason of course) - what they have in the classroom is only the intel map terrain, so that is what you see, what Tom is following, but the movie camera is showing everything outside as well.

On commercially available multi function displays you might see it as

Synthetic Vision

Synthetic Vision is just that — a completely fake, albeit accurate visualization of the flight environment created through sensor fusion and 3D rendering. SynVis can only show you where you are in relation to things that it knows about within its databases or that are fed to it from an ADS-B or other traffic system.

enter image description here

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quite common these days, and can be merged with realtime camera feeds too, known as enhanced vision system

enter image description here

This is the commercial variant if you like:

enter image description here

Real flight photo, the left MFD (primary flight display) shows the recreated synthetic CGI topographical terrain environment overlaid with flight data, the nav system if you like.

Tom would have similar with his flight data programmed in.

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After reviewing the relevant part of the movie, at 49:42 Maverick says, showing a screen, something like

you fly around and your nav system simulates the canyon

I think that in addition to the navigation system showing the path on a screen, there is supposedly a projection (?) of the surroundings on the internal surface cockpit. This is not mentioned anywhere though.

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  • @blobbymcblobby: no, as an answer after rewatching several times the part where Maverick explains how the training will happen, why?
    – WoJ
    Jun 9, 2023 at 19:36
  • "you fly around and your nav system simulates the canyon" is correct. Jun 9, 2023 at 19:42
  • youtu.be/48jU8EBOPZg clip with quote Jun 9, 2023 at 19:50

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