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Around The Fleet

SMWDC: Surface Warfare Officers' Top Gun

The Movie TOP GUN Marks 30th Year Anniversary

Aviator sunglasses, slick-looking jets, and intense training are some of the things that may come to mind when thinking of the movie that made the young pilot, Maverick, and the Navy's elite Fighter Weapons School, (or more specifically, the "Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor" program, or SFTI) famous.


FWS, also known as "Top Gun," is where some of the Navy's best go to become the nation's top fighter pilots.

Due to the success of the FWS, the Navy took the same concept and transferred it to the surface warfare community, and now, junior surface warfare officers can go through the Anti-Submarine/Anti-Surface Warfare Tactics Instructor course at the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in San Diego.

"What we are trying to do in our surface warfare community is to realize that our maritime superiority may be challenged in the future," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Adams, the Warfare Tactics Instructor lead. "We need to develop a cadre of highly trained instructors who can go to the fleet and instill a higher level of tactical proficiency."

The "Top Gun" concept that SMWDC is applying allows surface warfare officers to go through an intense course, where they will graduate as Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI), then returning back to the fleet to train other officers and improve ships' maritime tactics.

"As the surface warfare community develops this concept that grew out of aviation I think it will definitely bring surface warfare, and our Navy as a whole, forward in achieving maritime supremacy," said Adams.
Photo collage of SWO Top Gun.


The course is designed to be challenging and stressful to help build the students' confidence in their ability to maintain a battle-ready ship.

"The biggest expectation I have for [students] is to maintain that high standard that we teach in the schoolhouse," said Adams. "We put them under a lot of pressure and give them more information than they can probably handle. We want them to take a sense of humility and approachability, so that when they get aboard the ships, they can be identified as someone who has been well trained, and also, able to go to junior Sailors and train them."

WTIs will be able to play a vital role in the case that a naval conflict ever arises.

"The ultimate goal is develop a cadre of warriors, thinkers, and teachers that know how to fight [on] our ships," said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Cox, an Integrated Air Missile Defense Warfare Tactics instructor. "They should know the technical and tactical aspects of the weapons systems, as well as, every aspect of warfighting for integrated air-missile and ballistic defense. I expect them to be able to walk into [the ship's] Combat Information Center and immediately assess the capabilities and raise the tactical proficiency of the watch teams."