“Top Gun: Maverick” was released on May 27, 2022, hitting upward of $1 billion globally. The film is a sequel to the original 1986 classic starring Tom Cruise and depicts fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy training for a risky mission. As a high-energy action film, the scenes of actors being jostled in fighter jets are an integral part of the movie’s excitement and fun. However, the spending allocated within Top Gun’s budget reveals funding possibilities for international aid programs.
The Filming of “Top Gun: Maverick”
Given Cruise’s commitment to realism, it may be unsurprising that scenes including flights in F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets are real. Actors flew in jets rented directly from the U.S. Navy, getting the chance to experience the thrill of high speed and the grueling reality of high gravitational force.
However, this immersive approach to moviemaking came at a staggering cost. Bloomberg reports that the film’s production paid upward of $11,000 per hour to access the fighter jets. Yet, these fees are only a little higher than basic operation costs. The Department of Defense reports that operating a F/A-18 Super Hornet costs $10,507 per hour, not including the initial purchase cost of the aircraft.
Top Gun and Defense Spending
These figures hint at the department’s astronomical spending each year. The defense department’s budget request for this upcoming fiscal year is $773 billion— $30.7 billion more than in 2022.
DOD’s purpose is to deter war and ensure the nation’s security. However, countless military officials maintain that preventing war by funding international aid programs such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) can be more cost-effective in the long run.
International aid programs that reduce hunger and disease and spread stability through education can prevent conflict globally. As the “Top Gun: Maverick” budget highlights, the cost of everyday military operations can be exorbitant. The U.S. could funnel some of that money into international aid instead.
What One Hour of Flight Time Could Do for Global Poverty
To illustrate this point, one can look at what the U.S. military could do with the funding that matches one hour of flight time in a fighter jet— $10,507.
- Provide 5,253 malaria nets to sub-Saharan Africa. One net saves an average of two people from malaria. At just $2 per net, more than 10,000 people could be protected from malaria. The Against Malaria Foundation reports that the world saves one child’s life for about every 600 nets set up. That means one could save at least eight young lives with the same amount of money that provides just one hour of jet flight time.
- Feed more than 280 people in Somalia during a catastrophic famine. USAID estimates the cost per beneficiary of emergency food assistance at $37 per person. This means hundreds of people could receive food aid.
- Send about 350 Congolese girls to primary school for a year. The average primary school fee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is $25-$35 per year. This money could go far, especially since this cost is insurmountable for many Congolese families. Educated girls have a radiating positive economic impact on low-income countries. Rights group Plan International estimates that every $1 spent on girls’ education generates $2.80 in the country’s GDP return on investment.
Seeing how Top Gun’s budget reveals funding possibilities gives pause to how much change is feasible. With even a portion of the $773 billion in yearly defense spending, just one hour of flight in a fighter jet could do much for global poverty.
The organization Global Campaign on Military Spending works to advocate for the reallocation of military spending to peace and public aid programs. Established in 2014, it holds an annual event to raise awareness about military spending and to change the conversation.
– Grace Ramsey