Top Gun: Maverick brings a lot of nostalgia from the original movie, including the famous Top Gun call signs. Each Top Gun 2 pilot call sign is unique, and has a story behind it just like the original. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is joined by a new generation of Top Gun pilots, in the sequel and they all have their own call sign complete with a backstory. Directed by Oblivion‘s Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick picks up thirty-something years later with Cruise returning to his iconic role alongside a new group of rag-tag recruits who train under Maverick for a dangerous mission. One of the new pilots is new recruit Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Maverick’s late best friend and co-pilot, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards).
One of the most beloved touches of realism in the Top Gun sequel is the Top Gun 2 call signs. These code names are not chosen by the individual but are given as part of the camaraderie among recruits, who constantly face high-risk, life-or-death situations. Although call signs can be mocking, they always denote an intrinsic part of a pilot’s identity, a personal insignia branded on the pilot’s locker, helmet, and aircraft. The original introduced audiences not only to the memorable Top Gun call signs of “Maverick,” “Iceman,” and “Goose,” but to a whole crew of pilots with snappy Top Gun nicknames like “Viper,” “Cougar,” “Jester,” “Wolfman,” “Sundown,” “Slider,” and “Hollywood.” The call signs in the Top Gun sequel are just as playful and indicative of the pilot’s personality as in the original movie.
Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw
Miles Teller plays recruit Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. Rooster’s Top Gun call sign, not to mention his interesting choice of facial hair, is a playful nod to the legacy he will carry on as Goose’s son. In the original movie, Rooster’s father, who was Maverick’s best friend and Radar Intercept Officer, died from a failed ejection after a fighter jet engine flameout. Although Maverick was officially cleared from blame by a board of inquiry, Goose’s death triggered feelings of conflict in Maverick regarding his own father’s mysterious demise, leaving him to grapple with grief, guilt, and the tragic repercussions of his reckless flight maneuvers and if he deserves to fly with the other Top Gun pilots.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Rooster tells Maverick, “My dad believed in you. I’m not going to make the same mistake.” However, the two develop a gradual trust with each other over the course of the movie, leading to them saving each other’s lives in the final mission. As for why Rooster is called Rooster in Top Gun 2, actor Miles Teller chose the call sign himself from thousands of options (via USAToday). As a Rooster is a bird, he reason, it’s a sly nod to Goose without being an overt reference.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Glen Powell plays the role of “Hangman,” one of the more memorable Top Gun call signs in the sequel. While initially a smaller part, the character’s screen time was beefed up by the film’s producers after Powell delivered an impressive audition for the character of Rooster, which ultimately went to Teller. Hangman is another recruit of the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School. His Top Gun 2 call sign has a nefarious ring to it, insinuating the character possesses a dangerous, take-no-prisoners attitude.
The movie presents Hangman as one of the Top Gun pilots who thinks he is the best. He is not afraid to stand up to anyone and assert his dominance, even going as far as to question Maverick’s suitability as their instructor. Though his cockiness comes in handy in the climax of the movie, Hangman is a lot of fun to have as a pseudo-antagonist in the story. According to Glen Powell, Hangman earned his call sign from his reputation of “always leaving you out to dry”, although his character originally had the call sign Slayer, which Howell changed on advice from real Navy pilots. (via Cinemablend).
One of the most significant advantages of waiting 34 years for a Top Gun sequel is that women’s roles have integrally changed since the 1980s — that means this time around, female pilots are climbing into the cockpit and getting their own Top Gun call signs. Monica Barbaro plays the “whip-smart, determined” recruit with the Top Gun 2 call sign of “Phoenix.”
Phoenix is one of the best Top Gun pilots in the sequel and takes pleasure in putting her fellow pilots to shame with her stills. According to Barbaro (via THR), the Phoenix Top Gun call sign is a direct reference to the experience of female pilots feeling like they have to fall and rise again over and over to prove themselves. It’s fair to say that Phoenix has one of the best new call signs of the sequel for this depth of justification alone.
The role of Reuben “Payback” Fitch is played by Jay Ellis with one of the more intriguing Top Gun call signs. The character is an integral part of the plot of Top Gun: Maverick. This recruit places great emphasis on taking revenge and getting even, but he also doesn’t like to remain in anyone’s debt. His weapons systems officer (WSO) goes by the name of “Fanboy.”
Unlike some other Top Gun 2 pilots such as Rooster and Phoenix, Payback’s call sign doesn’t have much deeper meaning, and is pretty self-explanatory. Payback quickly establishes himself as one of the best pilots in the program and one of the top contenders for that top spot on the mission. However, he is also clearly overwhelmed and even intimidated by the mission at the end of Top Gun: Maverick as well as Maverick’s intense teaching style.
Another pivotal pilot character who goes by the Top Gun call sign Fanboy is played by Danny Ramirez. Fanboy is an incredibly intelligent young man who is the final member of the team who pulls off the climactic mission in Top Gun 2. Living up to his moniker, the call sign “Fanboy” written on his helmet uses the same font used in the Star Trek franchise, a clever nod to his devotion as a serious fan that also doubles as a promotion for another one of Paramount’s most popular franchises.
Perhaps the Top Gun nickname is a nod to how Fanboy first became a pilot. Maybe watching the crew of the Enterprise fly out into space in Star Trek inspired him, and he decided that becoming a TOPGUN pilot was a step in the same direction. While it’s not revealed for certain what the Fanboy call sign means, like the other Maverick pilot actors Danny Ramirez had a hand in choosing it and making the character personal to him (via comicbook.com).
The most unusual Top Gun call sign in the sequel is “Bob,” played by Lewis Pullman. While the other pilots have cool or intimidating TOPGUN call signs, Bob’s is hilariously uninspired. Despite having a rather bland Top Gun 2 call sign, his character in Top Gun: Maverick is one of the best Weapons System Officers. One of the things that makes this Top Gun call sign even funnier is that Top Gun 2 doesn’t explain what Bob means.
Fans are left wondering if it is a joke on the meek pilot, if he is in on the joke, or if there is more under the surface when it comes to Bob. Pullman once told The New York Times that Bob’s call sign in Top Gun 2 could actually be an acronym, standing for “big ‘ol balls“, a title Pullman suggested Hangman bestowed upon Bob after a hair-raising incident during their TOPGUN training.
How To Get Your Own Top Gun: Maverick Call Sign
The call signs are one of the coolest parts of the Top Gun franchise, and now anyone can get their own call signs without having to do all of that extra army training. The Top Gun: Maverick marketing team has set up a website in which users can generate their own Top Gun 2 call sign. Alongside using camera access, the web app utilizes AR to scan one’s face to help determine the perfect name.
After the face scan, the tool asks a couple of personality-based questions to better pick a spot-on call sign for the user. Along with the face scan, people get a selfie with a pilot helmet filter that can be uploaded to social media or any platform of one’s choosing. If a user doesn’t like their picked call sign, they needn’t call for air support, as the app provides two other names after the initial selection. It’s a fun way for anyone to put themselves in Top Gun: Maverick‘s characters’ shoes after seeing the long-awaited reboot/sequel.
Why One Top Gun 2 Call Sign Had To Change
In the first drafts of Top Gun: Maverick, Glen Powell’s Hangman nearly went by the call signs Spine Ripper or Slayer. Even though Hangman is a far better call sign than both (with one sounding like the name of a metal band and the literally being one), there was a deliberate reason for the change, and it came from Powell himself. On reading the script, Powell instantly noticed a glaring inaccuracy with the suggested call signs. The stars of Top Gun: Maverick consulted with Navy professionals while developing the film, and Powell revealed a key takeaway (via Cinemablend):
“In the first Navy briefing, they were like, ‘You know, these are Air Force call signs, and these are Navy call signs. There are Air Force call signs like Slayer and Spine Ripper.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I gotta change this!”.
There are, apparently, different traditions in the Air Force and Navy when it comes to choosing call signs. The garish Spine Ripper and Slayer, according to Top Gun 2‘s Navy consultants, fell into the Air Force camp. This didn’t sit well with Powell, so he spent some time in Miramar with some real-life Navy pilots to find a new moniker for his character. This is how Jake “Hangman” Seresin got his call sign. The production team of Top Gun: Maverick had no issue with the change, especially with the logical reason for it. Hangman is a much more Navy-appropriate callsign for Jake Seresin, and one that stays true to the fact the pilots in the Top Gun franchise don’t fly with the Air Force.
Top Gun 2 Call Signs Are An Example Of Why It Succeeded
The Top Gun 2 call signs are a part of the larger reason that the movie was the standout success of 2022: attention to detail. The production crew of Top Gun: Maverick did a lot to make sure that the feature film was as accurate to real life as possible. For example, the P-51 Mustang that Maverick and Rooster are working on in the end was actually Tom Cruise’s own aircraft. Many of the flying scenes featured weren’t made with CGI. Rather, real planes and pilots were used.
Reportedly, a big chunk of the movie’s budget was used on renting real Navy aircraft for the film to add to its authenticity. The Top Gun 2 call signs are just one more way that the film stays as true to real life as possible. It’s attention to detail like this that skyrocketed Top Gun: Maverick to be the highest-grossing box office of 2022, beating out huge contenders like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.