I recently read this list of errors in the film Top Gun. The list is long and fairly well done, but there is one I realized when thinking about that movie and that is Maverick may have actually caused an international incident at the start of the film that precipitated into the climactic dogfight at the end. That is, they intercepted the MiGs at the beginning of the film in an unprofessional and hostile manner which is not used when intercepting another aircraft over international waters.
Aircraft interceptions are a common occurrence in international airspace but there are specific procedures involved and protocol used to avoid an international incident. Typically a two ship flight will maneuver along side a unknown aircraft to visually indentify it. Any additional actions ie creating a collision hazard from a head on cross or hard maneuvering onto an aircraft’s six then tracking it with a fire control radar, as Maverick does at the start of the movie can be interpreted as a hostile act and could actually warrant use of force. Therefore Maverick may be the aggressor here and the second MiG maneuvering for a shot at Cougar and lighting up his F-14 with its fire control radar would be a reasonable response to the F-14 two ship’s aggressive act over international waters.
Soviet aircraft routinely approached US carrier battle groups during the Cold War, in some cases coming within 1/2 mile from the battle group. They were intercepted on a regular basis but never in such an aggressive manner as is shown in Top Gun. Unless said Soviet aircraft were acting in a provocative manner with posed a direct threat to the ship or the air wing aircraft, there really wasn’t much you could do as you were in international waters and subject to international law. Doing otherwise would have been an act of war.
So am I wrong in this assessment? Is the intercept of an unknown aircraft as shown in the movie uncalled for and hostile to the MiG pilots who were only engaged in their own maneuvers over international waters? Can anybody shed further light as to how the USN would professionally intercept a bogey over international waters?